July 7, 2020

Clever and Carnivorous

Utricularia intermedia - Flat-leaved bladderwort

Utricularia intermedia – Flat-leaved bladderwort | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Utricularia intermedia looks peaceful enough, despite having flat-leaved bladderwort for a common name. Utricularia translates from the Latin as “the master of a raft floated on bladders,” which is certainly a colorful way of describing something. But it only gets more interesting from there with this native aquatic plant: It’s carnivorous. Turns out those bladders located on their own specialized branches are for more than just looks. Here’s a great description from one source about the process for this plant to capture and consume: “Bladders [are] small, deflated, pear-shaped pouches. Not air-filled or used for flotation, they open abruptly when trigger hairs are disturbed, sucking in water and any hapless aquatic creature responsible for setting off the trap. Digestive enzymes and bacteria in the bladder then digest the prey for the nutritional use of the plant.” That’s quite the clever carnivore.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.