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The Croatan Explorer: Carnivorous Plants of The Croatan Forest

One spring day a few years ago, I was driving
down a forest road and noticed a tremendous number of yellow flowers in a ditch that was
filled with water just to the side of the road. I circled back and I knew pretty quickly that
I had finally spotted Bladderworts. There are actually two species of floating
Bladderworts in the Croatan National Forest. Utricularia inflata, which is very common,
and Utricularia radiata, which is less common. You’ll notice the wheel-like arrangement
and what happens is, there are these very sensitive structures on the tips, if something
like a very tiny crustacean, floating around in these waters, triggers this or touches
it, the bladder enlarges a bit, water rushes in and then the tiny little crustacean or
other meal goes in with it, and then there are enzymes and things that dissolve the prey and it is
assimilated into the plant to enhance the nutrient uptake. Anatomically, the floats have been a point
of some discussion, some authorities arguing that they are modified leaves or petioles
and others suggesting that they are modified stems. Irregardless, if you go in, you’re probably
not coming back out. We often find these in ditches, along roads,
in the Croatan. Other bodies of water could have them as well,
and in the springtime, if you’re driving down the road, the yellow flowers are a giveaway. Take a look and see if some of the Bladderworts
are around.

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