Carnivorous Pacman

The tiny flower of Utricularia arenaria

To get the nutrients they desire carnivorous flowering plants are loaded with special features to attract and trap their prey. One such plant species that occurs on Mountainlands is a bladderwort named Utricularia arenaria. Bladderworts are widespread across the planet and this native to Africa grows in damp conditions in nutrient poor shallow soil.

The damp environment where the bladderwort grows.

This innocently looking “meat eater” can easily be overlooked as it stands about 5 – 15 cm tall with a dainty stem sporting a few small white flowers and tiny spoon shaped leaves at its base.

A photo of a bladder with the trap door opening and trigger hairs to the left

The bladder’s position on the roots can be seen in the top right hand side corner

Its carnivorous features are housed in its roots and consist of bladders on stalks that act as traps with which it catches small organisms. These ball-like structures are about 1 – 1.5 mm across and have trap doors with hair like filaments. To cock itself, the bladder generates a difference in pressure between its inside and the water outside and when prey triggers the hairs the bladder evens the pressure in a flash and sucks its victim in before digesting it. This action is exceptionally fast, making bladderworts the most sophisticated and fastest trappers in the floral kingdom. Click on the Youtube link below to see the trapping motion in action.

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