Utricularia macrorhiza traps.
Utricularia humboldtii flower.
Utricularia is the largest genus of carnivorous plants with more than 220 species that occur throughout the world. The Latin genus name refers to the fact that the plant is festooned with utricles, or little bag-like bladders, 1 to several mm in size. Obviously, they also have given the plant its common name. These little bladders are carnivorous traps like none other and they are guaranteed to astonish!
Utricularia have been known about for a long time; in 1753 Linnaeus mentioned seven species (U. bifida, U. caerulea, U. foliosa, U. gibba, U. minor, U. subulata, and U. vulgaris). However, the function of its strange bladders, that are produced underground or underwater were long misunderstood and thought perhaps to be flotation devices (the most flamboyant species known were aquatic). But in 1876, a scientist named Mary Treat realized that the bladders were actually suction traps; afterwards Darwin and Lloyd did more work on the genus indicating carnivory. A crucial marker for our understanding of the genus was the publication by Peter Taylor of his great monograph on the genus Utricularia. A marvelous combination of technical expertise, dedication, and love, this work is an amazing thing.
In Taylor's monograph, he divided the genus Utricularia into two subgenera and 35 sections. More recent work suggests that the best way to decompose the genus is into three subgenera and 33 sections. How to best handle the genus subdivision is anything but transparent, and I am sure that many will not agree with the approach I have taken. If you disagree, please prove me otherwise in the published literature! I'll be happy to incorporate improvements based upon citable research.
Utricularia have invaded just about every imaginable habitat where plant carnivory is an advantage. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica. In the USA they can be found in every state; in Canada they are in every province; in Australia they are so common they are eating the children. (OK, strike that last part.) Species have pioneered many habitats, including waterlogged soils, lakes, streams, the surfaces and crevices in trees and bromeliads, and seasonally-moist deserts! The only habitat they have not exploited is strongly brackish to marine environments. (Although Utricularia benjaminiana can survive in some moderately brackish waters.)
Read more about Utricularia at the ICPS sarracenia.com FAQ
-- Barry Rice
Utricularia information on the ICPS carnivorousplants.org web site:
Registered Cultivar Names
Seed Bank: Growing terrestrial Utricularia
Seed Bank: Growing epiphytic Utricularia
Utricularia information in the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter:
Rutishauser, Rolf and Jeannette Brugger and Lorenz Butschi (1992) Structural and developmental diversity of Utricularia traps. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 21(3):68-74 (
Rivadavia, Fernando (2001) Utricularia nelumbifolia Gardn. at Last!. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 30(1):5-10 (
Taylor, Peter (1991) Utricularia in North America north of Mexico. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 20(1-2):8-14 (
Taylor, Peter (1991) Notes on distribution of North American Utricularia. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 20(1-2):14-20 (
Taylor, Peter (1991) Peter Taylor line drawings. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 20(1-2):34-43 (
Taylor, Peter (1991) Word list of genus Utricularia (revised). Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 20(1-2):45-58 (
Search the CPN Index and Archive for over 200 articles about Utricularia.