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.

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