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One of the carnivorous plants I keep is the floating aquatic Utricularia gibba. It’s pretty ubiquitous as carnivorous plants go – it occurs naturally on six continents. I think a lot of aquarium keepers despise it as a pernicious weed, but it’s because of its unkillable nature I like it in my tub ponds. To me, aquatic bladderworts are the answer to mosquito control in small water features (at least, ones with plants in them but no fish or fountain).

It’s also suitable for small water features because of its small habit. I can’t speak for the aquariumists (aquarists? -dunno what they call themselves), but if it gets too thickly overgrown, I find it quite easy just to pull the clumps out and toss them on the flowerbeds, leaving behind enough to keep the colony going.

The only problem I have with it is that it inevitably gets strewn with filamentous algae (a.k.a. string algae) growing through it. In small water features, filamentous algae is pretty simple to get rid of – you just have to twirl a stick through it like a fork in spaghetti, and it comes out. When it grows through the bladderwort, however, it’s impossible to get rid of one without losing the other.

Anyway. Utricularia flowers are surprisingly pretty. In fact, most genera of carnivorous plants have attractive flowers. This might be considered somewhat ironic, but on the other hand, these plants are very good at attracting insects, after all. I never got my U. gibba to flower – until now. And it did so under what I consider quite unlikely circumstances.

Utricularia gibba  flower

Utricularia gibba flower

This “specimen” is in a soup bowl that got chipped so nobody wanted to eat from it anymore. I tend to repurpose all sorts of junk into the garden, so in early summer I just dropped some U. gibba into it…and of course some spores of algae came along with it despite my best efforts at picking it out, and somehow some duckweed (Lemna sp.) too. I put the bowl in a part-shade corner and generally neglected it except to add water when I remembered. It basically looks like a bowlful of green muck/slime. Except today I noticed this little gem of a flower sticking out.

I’m not sure what triggered flowering – growing in a shallow container? Part shade? Being left undisturbed all season? Dunno. I’m just really glad it happened. Most species of Utricularia need cross-pollination, though, so I doubt I’ll get any seed from it, unfortunately.

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