Carnivorous Bladderwort Plant Discovered in Wirth Park
Bladderwort isn’t a rare plant, but it’s not very common in the northwest metro. That’s why volunteers with the Hennepin County Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) were delighted to find it in Theodore Wirth Park.
The scientific name for bladderwort is Utricularia and it’s a carnivorous plant. It eats microscopic animals called zooplankton, as well as the occasional mosquito, which is a mammoth meal for the plant. A WHEP team found Utricularia growing in the wetland near Wirth Lake Beach. That wetland was created by workers as part of a renovation of the beach area nearly a decade ago.
Dr. Ann Marie Journey, a scientist with Hennepin County, says wetlands are a vital part of the ecosystem. CCX News caught up with her on the shore of the Wirth wetland.
“We’re standing on some drier ground,” she says, then points to her right. “And here we have water. And in between the two there’s this area of vegetation. That wetland vegetation is functioning as a literal catchment and filter for everything that comes from the land that’s going to the water.”
A healthy wetland filter means the water near the wetland is also healthy – a condition indicated by the presence of bladderwort, which doesn’t do well in low-quality water. All sorts of conditions can hurt the health of wetlands, from road salt to trash dumping. That means keeping wetlands healthy can be a challenge. Finding bladderwort here means the man-made wetland is doing well, which Johnson says is especially important in the era of climate change.
“All of our wetlands in Minneapolis are doing double duty, especially now with the much heavier rains that we’re getting,” she says. “Our wetlands are the places that can absorb all of these wild weather events that we’re having.”