Plant of Interest: Carnivorous Bladderwort

Bladderwort underwater

Interesting changes in the plant community are occurring as a result of increasing areas of deep standing water from beaver dams. The bog birch is dying out where beaver ponds have been developed. In place of the bog birch, vast networks of Common Bladderwort (Ultricularia vulgaris) are thriving.

The name “Common” Bladderwort isn’t a very good descriptor for a plant with highly unique capabilities…

Bladderwort out of water (held by OHA volunteer Susie Shaddox)

Each of the bladders has trigger hairs that open trap doors when touched by small aquatic insects. When the valve bursts open, it creates a vacuum and water rushes in, pulling tiny animals into the bladder, providing nitrogen and other nutrients to the plant. This is the fastest known underwater carnivorous trap.

Only the Bladderwort’s stem and yellow flower appear above water.

This plant is a food source for muskrats and a variety of water birds, and provides cover for many aquatic animals. Its ability to bend with water currents keeps it from breaking, while emergent flowers produce nectar, providing access to pollinators above the water surface.

Common Bladderwort was featured in OHA’s Buckhorn Bulletin in Fall 2013. Click here for an interesting video about how Bladderwort accomplishes this amazing feat.

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