Saturday, May 26, 2018

Purple Bladderwort - Utricularia purpurea

Bladderworts are semi-carnivorous plants that use their tiny bladder-like "traps" at the ends of their threadlike stems to capture small aquatic animals such as insects and nematodes to supplement their diet. These traps are exceedingly responsive to touch and close quickly to snare their prey.  Purple bladderwort (Utricularia purpurea) is an aquatic species found statewide in shallow freshwater habitats such as pond and marsh edges. It has a wide distribution in North America and is found in most states and provinces east of the Mississippi River north to Quebec, Newfoundland, and Labrador.
Purple bladderwort is actually just one of three bladderworts with lavender flowers. Florida purple bladderwort (U. amethystina) is confined to a few counties in Collier and Lee Counties in extreme southwest Florida while lavender bladderwort (U. resupinata) , also found statewide, is distinguished by an upcurving lower lip.  The plants photographed here were observed in shallow water at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.
Purple bladderwort spreads across the open water by forming a network of below-water stems. The light purple flowers can occur throughout the growing season. They stand several inches above the water and are about 1/2 inch in length.  The lower lip is accented with a broad yellow and white splotch and a deeper purple splotch is evident on the upper petal.
Though bladderworts are interesting plants, they don't lend themselves to nursery propagation. None of the 14 native species are currently offered by nurseries affiliated with the Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN) and I am not aware of them ever offering any of these plants. Look for it in shallow water habitats, but you'll have to look closely as its small size sometimes makes difficult to see.


  1. Thanks, found one in the Everglades in shallow water near the visitor's center. Is this Florida species endangered?

    1. No - it is pretty common, just often overlooked because of its size.


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