Monday, January 20, 2020

Floating Bladderwort - Utricularia inflata

Floating bladderwort (Utricularia inflata) is one of the most distinctive members of this semi-carnivorous genus. It's bright yellow flowers are common to many, but its floating leaves that stretch narrowly across the surface of shallow ponds and other wetlands are rather unique. Floating bladderwort is found statewide in Florida and is vouchered for most of the Southeast. It also occurs in the state of Washington.
The narrow linear leaves are about 6 inches long just below the water surface, but it is rooted in the bottom mucky soil. The tiny bladders used to trap various invertebrates are also below the water surface. In central Florida, where these photos were taken, floating bladderwort holds these leaves through the winter. It is a perennial, and emerges in the early spring.
Flowering can occur in most months in warmer climates. These photos were taken in mid-January in Pinellas County, Florida. In colder climates, it tends to occur in spring and summer after rains fill the shallow wetlands it occurs in. The flowers are typical for the genus - bright canary yellow with a broad 3-petaled lower lip. It does not have a "horn" as some of the ones I've previously published do.
Bladderworts are amazing wildflowers, but do not lend themselves well to typical commercial propagation. I have never seen any offered for sale, even by native nurseries that specialize in wetland restoration. They are quite sensitive to hydrological conditions. In the proper ones, they can form large "carpets" across the water surface and then "disappear" when the water recedes.  If you are passing by a shallow wetland covered with bright yellow blooms, chances are you are looking at floating bladderwort.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Horned Bladderwort - Utricularia cornuta

Horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) is yet another yellow-flowered bladderwort that roots itself in the substrate instead of floating on the water surface.In many respects, it is quite similar to one I've already posted - U. junceus. Both have "horns" below the bright yellow blooms and both have noticeable "humps" in the lower petal.  The major difference between the two is in the length of the horn-like spur. In U. juncea, the spur is rarely longer than 6 mm, while in U. cornuta the spur is normally longer - up to 14 mm.
Horned bladderwort is common in Florida's wet habitats and it tends to flower during the wetter rainy season. It is reported statewide and in nearly every state and Canadian Province in the eastern half of North America. There are scattered reports in some states and provinces west of this region as well.
Horned bladderwort shares the same ecological attributes of others I've previously written about. They are semi-carnivorous and use their tiny bladders to supplement their diet with small invertebrates.
Look for this species and others in this genus once the summer rainy season floods shallow open pond edges and in wet prairies and marshes.

Humped Bladderwort - Utricularia gibba

Bladderworts are very interesting species as they are semi-carnivorous and augment their diet by using tiny bladders near their roots to capture even smaller invertebrates such as insects and nematodes.  Humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba) is one of 10 yellow-flowered species native to Florida. It is found statewide in shallowly flooded open habitats such as pond edges and also is reported from every state in the eastern half of the US and from all of those states along the west coast as well.
Humped bladderwort is one that is rooted in the wet substrate instead of one that floats in the water column. The leaves are not very substantial and the 6-inch or so flower stalk emerges during the summer rainy season. Several bright yellow flowers occur along the top of this stem. Unlike most others, these small yellow flowers are held at an almost-45-degree angle. This is the best characteristic to distinguish it from other similar yellow-flowered species.
As bladderworts have little commercial interest, they are species to be admired when out in the field. Look for this one in seasonally and shallowly flooded areas at the edge of ponds and open wet prairies and marshes.

Southern Bladderwort - Utricularia juncea

Southern badderwort (Utricularia juncea) is one of 14 native bladderworts found in Florida. A few of them have purple blooms, but the vast majority have yellow - like this species does. Identifying them can be a bit of a challenge and the first step I take is to see if the plant is firmly rooted in the substrate or floating in the water. The second step is to look closely at the size and shape of the flowers. Southern bladderwort is one of those that is rooted below the waterline and it's flowers are somewhere in the middle range of the overall group.
Southern bladderwort is common to most of Florida. It is found in inundated areas in most counties from the western Panhandle into extreme south Florida. It is not vouchered in many of the counties in between, but I suspect that's simply for lack of looking for it. Bladderworts are not especially noticeable when not in bloom. This species is also rather widespread in the US and has been reported along the Gulf Coast from Texas and then north to New York.
Bladderworts are semi-carnivorous. The tiny bladders that lie either just below the waterline or soil line have one of the fastest trigger mechanisms in the plant world and they use it to capture tiny invertebrates such as insects and nematodes. As its Latin name implies, southern bladderwort has small narrow leaves near the base. Its flower stalk arises from this center and stands up to 6 inches above. The bright yellow blooms are about 1/2 inch long and without the definite "hood" seen in a closely related species - U. cornuta.
Bladderworts are very interesting species, but not ones with a lot of horticulture significance. I have never seen any of our native species offered for sale commercially. Just appreciate them for what they are and look for them once the summer rainy season is underway in shallowly flooded open habitats.