While hiking along the Cuyahoga River, I encountered this very widespread species within the United States and throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It is usually overlooked by nature enthusiasts, but is a common sight in wet ditches and wetlands across the state.
Bladderwort is a carnivorous species many have learned about in their junior high/middle school science classes. Small bladders are inflated sacs that are triggered to ensnare tiny aquatic organisms. The bladders are scattered in the leaves, which is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Common Bladderwort.
The bladders also fill with air to keep the plant afloat during the flowering period and fill with water to sink the plant when it goes into dormancy.
Up to 20 bright yellow one-half to three-quarter inch snapdragon-like flowers form at the top of a stout reddish green stem, emerging up to 8 inches above the waterline. The flowers have finely articulated red veins.
This plant is free floating and has no roots. Although the commonly held view is that the bladders of bladderworts are for capturing and digesting microorganisms that provide the plant with nutrients, bladders more often have been observed to contain communities of microorganisms (bacteria, algae, and diatoms) living in the bladders, not as prey, suggesting that the bladders may also, and perhaps more importantly, serve to establish mutually beneficial relationships with some microorganisms.