The story of Bladderwort…

Updated: May 31, 2020

By: Sonja Wixom

It is no secret that the abundance of a certain aquatic plant, or referred to by scientist as aquatic macrophyte, which gives visitors the most problems is the bladderwort. Its scientific name is Utricularia, Utricularia inflata to be exact for the species found in Koinonia’s waterbody. Bladderwort is a non-rooted, submerged plant that has a very special adaptation to thrive in acidic water! As mentioned in the last post, bladderwort is a carnivorous plant that supplements its nutrient poor diet with zooplankton!

There are two types of plankton: phytoplankton – these are green, have chloroplast, and carries out photosynthesis (this is where the ‘phyto’ part comes in!), making their own food and are actually the base of the food web (think algae!). Zooplankton is the other kind – ‘zoo’ refers to animals, so these are tiny, microscopic animals that actually eat the phytoplankton. They fit into the food web by being the in-between step of phytoplankton to small, juvenile fishes. The term ‘plankton’ simply means ‘can not swim against the current’ – zooplankton can swim, but because of their size they cannot swim against the viscosity of the water. It is similar to if we, humans, went swimming in honey or molasses – then we would be referred to as plankton! The other side of the coin is nekton; these are animals that can swim against the current, such as fish and humans. Below is a picture showing a few of the more popular freshwater zooplankton species. These are found in all ponds, lakes, streams, wetlands, reservoirs, and even puddles!

So the bladderwort actually eats these tiny animals much like a Venus flytrap eats flies! They have tiny structres you may have seen before called bladders (this is where the name comes from). On these bladders there are tiny hairs that alert the plant when a zooplankton is near, the plant will then change its water pressure to pull the zooplankton into the bladder. Here is a link to view a few videos of bladderwort feeding:

Other carnivorous plants found on the property:

Pitcher Plants! Sarracenia purpurea

You may have seen these plants and not even really noticed! They, like every other carnivorous plant, live in acidic environments or in nutrient poor conditions.

The ones at Koinonia live in the peat moss mats! These are considered rare and highly desirable due to the limited environments in which they can survive… Koinonia has plenty! According to Go Botany, these are the only type of pitcher plant found in New England. As you notice the actual plant has veins that mimic a human organ’s veins! This design attracts its prey, so cool! They also have a ‘pitcher’ design that holds onto water and allows for the prey to become trapped for digestion. If you find these plants out in the field, go ahead and touch one. They are smooth if you run your finger down the inside of the leaf, but if you move your finger the opposite way you will notice the hairs on the inside. These hairs are recurved, and pointed down – making it easy for flies and other insects to enter, but not leave!

Round-Leaved Sundews Drosera rotundifolia

It is likely that you have seen this plant before too! It is much smaller and easier to miss though, unless you have a habit of really slowing down to stop and look (I suggest it sometimes!). They are found on the bog, growing out of the peat moss or on dead trees at food level. The sundews are a beautiful red color and have these little drops around its leaves. These drops are sticky and capture prey for digestion! Engineers are also looking into using the compounds the sundew uses in its sticky drops to create new adhesives!

List of plants I have encountered in the bog portion only:

Below is the complete list of all plant species found on the quaking bog. The first column is arranged alphabetically by common names. The second column has the scientific name for each species. You will notice that whenever a scientific name is written it is either italicized, or in instances where one cannot italicize a name such as with hand writing the name is underlined. It is also a rule that only the genus name is capitalized, and the species name is never capitalized. When I refer to genus and species, please be aware that there is a long list of taxonomic levels – they are:

  • Kingdom

  • Phylum

  • Class

  • Order

  • Family

  • Genus

  • Species

All have Latin-based scientific names! It is interesting but can get confusing! So be aware… An easy way to remember the list and order that the taxonomic classification system: King Phillip Came Over From Great Spain.

Another reason why scientists use these crazy Latin names is simple, different areas call the same plants by different names. Has this ever happened to you? A friend asks you if you had ever seen a certain flower, but using a name you’ve never heard before… when they show you what they mean, it clicks ‘ah, you meant….’? This happens when scientists from different areas work together on the same species – by using scientific names there is no question on what species is being discussed!

You do not need to know this; I just wanted to make everyone aware of where these names come from! So again, below is a list of the species found on the quaking bog! A great website to look through and search each one is called Go Botany. It is a website for New England, but has many of the same species we have here in New York – with GREAT pictures and descriptions. So check it out!

All photos by: Kirstin Sandblom

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