Leafy Bladderwort

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Imagine the plight of a plant that must adapt by eating a flea.

The Leafy Bladderwort, Utricularia foliosa, is a herbaceous aquatic plant that thrives in shallow waters. A carnivorous species that is a free floater submersed below the water surface. There is no root system with this plant. A single main stem supports branching thread like leaves. Stem length is about 3 to 4 feet. At the tip of leaves are tiny brown colored urn-like bladders.

The only part of the plant that is above water is a leafless flower stalk that supports 1 to 6 yellow flowers. The flower’s corolla is composed of two lips and five lobes and is about ½ inch in diameter. The upper lip has two lobes and a lower lip with three lobes. Two erect male stamens extend outward between the two lips.

The bladders catch fish larva, water fleas, and crustaceans. They do so with incredible speed. Why? Because the aquatic soil that the Leafy and other Bladderworts float over is devoid of life supporting nutrients, especially nitrogen. Bladderworts in general have adapted to obtain most of their nutrients by the consumption of insects and other animals.

There are 14 species in the Genus Utricularia that reside in Florida. Seven species have been recorded in the Okaloacoochee Slough in Hendry County where I shot the specimen in the picture.

Dorothy Rodwell