Rachel Darvill of Wildsight-Golden

Rachel Darvill of Wildsight-Golden

Beneath the Surface: The Bladderwort plant

The title “bladderwort” suggests a rather unpleasant medical condition rather than an aquatic plant.

The title “bladderwort” suggests a rather unpleasant medical condition rather than an aquatic plant.

In fact, if it were not for the unfortunate name and the fact that bladderworts exist for most of their life cycle just beneath the surface of the water (and are easy to miss), they would get a lot more attention.

The Utricularia or bladderwort genus is a sprawling brood, consisting of 233 (all carnivorous) species. Some are aquatic, and the other 80 per cent are terrestrial, living in wet soil.

Bladderworts are a successful bunch, and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. The species found in our area are the Greater/Common bladderworts and Lesser bladderworts (aquatic).

These unique plants don’t have clearly defined roots; they float freely in the water unattached to worldly cares. But what’s really fascinating about the bladderwort is the tiny apparatus they are named after.

Formerly the “bladders” were thought to be some sort of floatation device. Upon closer study, it was discovered they are actually how the plant feeds!

The bladders are modified leaves that have been called “the most sophisticated carnivorous trapping mechanisms to be found anywhere in the plant kingdom.”

Take that Venus fly traps! The little stomach-like mechanisms can digest things such as water fleas, nematodes, and even prey as large as fish fry depending on the species.

Bladderwort can have hundreds of traps on a single stem. The way they work is by pumping water out of the bladder. This creates a vacuum that increases until no more water can be pumped out. The trapdoor portion of the bladder is rigged with several antenna-like protuberances that are super-sensitive triggers.

When a victim gets too close and touches these, the seal on the vacuums breaks and the little creature is sucked into the bladder to be digested faster than it can blink — less than a millisecond. (Five hundred times faster than a Venus fly trap!) Invertebrates are often attracted to the sugars bladderworts secrete as bait.

Invertebrates are often attracted to the sugars bladderworts secrete as bait. Less of a sweet treat and more of a sour end!

Bladderworts provide food for fish, muskrats and waterfowl and cover for fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Their small bright yellow flowers emerge in late summer, so look for them in wetlands or calm areas of lake. We hope you have had fun learning a little more about the plants in our lake.

Beneath The Surface is based on the principle that there is often more to know than what is visible from the “surface” of an issue. If there is something that concerns you about the lake and you want to get to the “bottom of it,” call Lake Windermere Ambassadors program co-ordinator Megan Peloso at 250-341-6898 or email info@lakeambassadors.ca and inspire the next column!

Just Posted

The end of an Echo
The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

Princeton wildfire phots courtesy of Debbie Lyon.
UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers
VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

Aerial view south of Williams Lake Friday afternoon shows dry lightning storm passing over, leaving fire starts behind. Lightning sparked more than 100 new fires Friday. (Black Press)
VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017
DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase
59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

(Flickr/Andreas Eldh)
Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage
Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds
UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Photo by: WeissPaarz.com
Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert
UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

A university study finds that about nine per cent of Canada’s Grade 11 and 12 students – roughly 66,000 teens – have driven within an hour of drinking and 9.4 per cent drove after using marijuana.                                 Photo: Now-
Leader file
One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records
Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read