Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Utricularia cornuta Michx.
LENTIBULARIACEAE (Bladderwort Family)
EtymologyUtricularia is derived from utriculus, the Latin for small bottle or bag, in reference to the plants' insect-trapping bladders; cornuta is Latin for horned.
DescriptionHorned bladderwort is a semiaquatic, perennial herb; its tiny leaves are partially buried in muddy soil or peat. The bright yellow flowers bring a burst of color to muddy Sphagnum lawns or bog pools; when not in bloom, horned bladderwort is hardly noticeable. By trapping and digesting insects and other small organisms, carnivorous bladderworts -- along with pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) and sundews (Drosera spp.) -- obtain nutrients, particularly nitrogen, from nutrient-impoverished bogs and fens. Aquatic or semiaquatic perennial herbs, bladderworts catch zooplankton, tiny crustaceans, and other animals as well as insects in a mechanically unique way. They lack roots, but their finely divided leaves bear tiny concave sacs, or utricles, that actively suck in water and prey through "trap doors" that rapidly open and shut when triggered by the touch of an organism. Inside the water-inflated bladder, digestive enzymes and bacteria dissolve the prey into nutrients that, along with the water, are absorbed into the plant. When digestion is complete --anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours -- a partial vacuum is restored, the sac deflates, and the trap is reset.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height4-10 inches
LeavesTiny, grass-like; grow beneath the soil, so leaves and minute bladder sacs are usually not visible.
Flower/InflorescenceYellow, 3/4" long, bilabiate (two-lipped); lower lip has a hood-like top above it and a long spur pointing downward from the base; fragrant; 1-5 flowers on an erect, leafless, slender, brownish stalk 2-13" tall that rises above the mud or water.
Flowering PeriodJuly-September
FruitSmall capsule with many seeds.
HabitatWet soils along pond margins. Sphagnum lawns and mud bottoms in bogs and fens.
RangeNewfoundland and Quebec to Michigan and Minnesota; south to Florida and Texas.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett