Aquatic Carnivorous plants- Meet the Bladderworts ZigZag and Swollen.

Aquatic Carnivorous plants- Meet the Bladderworts ZigZag and Swollen.

We know from the previous article about bog dwelling carnivorous plants, but let’s circle back and ponder this question. Why do plants grow where they grow? Simple, habitat preference via nature.

Swollen Bladderwort | photo by Alice Mary Herden

First, I am not a botanist by any means; however, we can put together answers to that question based on simple observation and some research. 

Okay, let’s do this. Let’s pretend you’re a seed. What type of seed shall I be, you ask? Great question. Let’s be a seed from a swollen bladderwort. 

You (the seed) are released and happily floating along in the water. You get caught on a twig, and you’re stuck. Along comes a turtle and knocks the twig, and you are released. YAY, freedom! But you get trapped again by a bunch of twigs and aquatic vegetation and you say to yourself- “Seed, it seems this is the place I will make my new home.”

Swollen Bladderwort | photo by Alice Mary Herden

Some of your sibling’s seeds and other family members, oh and any nearby neighbors, may travel a little farther depending on the water’s movement. However, let’s not rule out if they don’t get eaten by any creatures who love greens, like turtles, ducks and Apple Snails. Yes, Apple Snails may poop out any seeds consumed when they feast on these delicious hair-like leaves.

Where Seeds Land

There are different ways a seed finds a new home
• Carried by the wind
• Expelled from a bird or other creatures’ tush
• By water flow
• Hitching a ride on fur, feathers, hair, or peoples clothing

There are over 14 native bladderworts found in Florida. Most of these have yellow flowers and dwell atop the water’s surface, but some may root in moist soil. < That is confusing. Why be called bladderwort when bladderworts are aquatic plants. So true, but first, let’s get through explaining why their eccentric system makes them carnivorous plants.

Bladderworts Native to Florida

Florida Purple Bladderwort – Horned Bladderwort – Florida Yellow Bladderwort Leafy Bladderwort –  Humped Bladderwort 

Floating Bladderwort – Southern Bladderwort – Piedmont Bladderwort

Eastern Purple Bladderwort – Little Floating Bladderwort 

Lavender Bladderwort; Small Purple Bladderwort – Fringed Bladderwort 

 Striped Bladderwort –  Zigzag Bladderwort

Aquatic bladderworts do not have root systems. They have a vast and complex leaf system that resemble roots. These leaves are designed with hundreds of tiny hair-like threads from the plant’s main stem. In those hair-like threads, there are these bladder-shaped traps also called sacs that capture aquatic organisms. Once the organisms are close enough, they are sucked up, kind of like a vacuum. These aquatic organisms will get stuck within the bladder-shaped traps and the plant soon begins it digestive process. And that is what makes these plants carnivorous. 

Hey, you don’t have to be a meat-eating Tyrannosaurus Rex to be labeled as a carnivore. 

ZigZag Bladderwort | photo by Alice Mary Herden

Now we get the idea of bladderworts being an aquatic plant, let’s discover the few bladderworts that actually have a root system beneath the soil but grows up above the surface.

Let me refer you to a very interesting website. Treasure Coast Natives has a great blog post and details about these soil growing bladderworts. I am very jealous of the microscopic images he has included in his blog because I had to return my microscope. But those images has inspire me to learn and encourage me to set out for a ‘see for myself’ quest.

I leave you to explore the link above, and hopefully, that will encourage you to explore nature more closely. 

Unfortunately, this ends the October section of Florida Nature Magazine as November is just around the corner. 

Stay safe in your explorations!

Carnivorous plant links:

Texas A&U

Carnivorous Plant Resource

Florida Plant Atlas

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