Purple Bladderwort

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The Purple Bladderwort, Utricularia purpurea, is an aquatic, carnivorous plant that resides in Florida’s wetlands.   The multi-stems of purpurea, are free floating with a length up to three feet. There are no roots to hold the plant in place.  Filament like leaves grow in whorls perpendicular to stems. These filament leaves carry out the needed photosynthesis. Filaments in turn branch out into multiple threads at the tip of which are tiny bladders.  Bladders trap crustaceans and fish larvae with incredible speed.

An erect flower stalk, two to five inches in height, grows above the surface of the water with one to four tiny pink to purple flowers at the tip. The corolla is two lipped, five lobed. The upper lip has two fused lobes and the lower larger lip with three fused lobes. The lower lip has a white marking to attract flying insects.  The flower is barely ¼” in diameter.

Purpurea can survive just fine on photosynthesis. What it needs is Nitrogen which is not available in the substrate.  To survive, the plant consumes what it can catch solely for the Nitrogen. There are 32 species of terrestrial and aquatic carnivorous plants in Florida all needing Nitrogen. The specimen in the picture was found in the Okaloacoochee Slough in Hendry County.