Wednesday's Wildflower: Horned Bladderwort & Small Butterwort

Utricularia cornuta, Horned Bladderwort 
Submitted by Carole Tebay, Longleaf Pine Chapter

Photo by Carol Tebay, Escambia County

"How charming," was my thought upon noticing dainty yellow flowers blooming on the floor of a nearly dry ephemeral pond. Then I remembered their identification and realized I was strolling among predators.

The diminutive horned bladderwort, Utricularia cornuta, has an underground bladder which sucks in tiny insects and worms when its hairs are triggered.

The plant's genus, Utricularia, comes from the Latin for bladderwort. Cornuta, is from the Latin, horned, which describes the horn on the snapdragon-like flower. Thus the common name, horned bladderwort. It is also called leafless bladderwort because the small leaves are underground.

The flowers of the horned bladderwort are a reminder of the drama taking place in the world just below our feet.

  • Family Name: Bladderwort
  • Genus/Species: Utricularia cornuta
  • Common Name(s): Horned Bladderwort
  • Type of Plant: wildflower
  • Blooms: year round
  • Native Range: Newfoundland and Quebec to Michigan and Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas
  • Conservation Status: Obligate wetland. Occurs almost always under natural conditions in wetlands.
  • Hardiness zone: Zone 3 - 11a
  • Soil Preference: Acid lakes, sandy or muddy shores, peatlands
  • Height at maturity: stem and leaves are underground, with flowering scape on a 4-10" leafless stalk.
  • Propagation: Seed, seedling. Not many references to cultivating this plant except by carnivore enthusiasts.
Other Links:
USF Plant Atlas: http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2208

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Pinguicula pumila, Small Butterwort
Submitted by Jean Evoy, a 30-year veteran of FNPS. She has been active in several chapters including Miami-Dade, Serenoa, and Mangrove.

Photo by Jean Evoy, Manatee County

Six species of carnivorous plants in the genus Pinguicula are found in Florida. Three are widely distributed, and three are only found in the Florida panhandle. These wetland plants are commonly called “butterworts”. 

The succulent basal leaves of the butterwort serve as traps for insect prey. They are equipped with special glands: One gland secretes sticky drops that trap the unwary prey; the second gland produces enzymes that break down the parts of the insect that can be digested. 

Butterwort flowers are held high above the insect trapping basal rosette, thus potential pollinators are spared so they can perform a useful function for the plant.

This Pinguicula pumila, or small butterwort, was photographed in a wet depression in the Coker Preserve in Manatee County. Small butterwort is usually less than 5” tall. It’s flowers, ranging from pale violet to white, may be seen from January to May in moist to wet areas. 

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