Lesser bladderwort (Utricularia minor)

Lesser bladderwort growing in bog
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST

Top facts

  • Closing in around 0.002 seconds, the traps used by bladderworts to catch their prey perform one of the quickest known movements of any plant family.
  • The lesser bladderwort is a member of the Lentibulariaceae, which is one of the nine carnivorous plant families.
  • The lesser bladderwort is thought to feed on water fleas, algae and various types of microscopic worms and crustaceans.
  • The lesser bladderwort flowers between June and August in some parts of its range.
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Lesser bladderwort fact file

Lesser bladderwort description

GenusUtricularia (1)

The lesser bladderwort (Utricularia minor) is an aquatic species, and some of the plant is suspended in the water column while the leaves and stems float on the surface. The fine, thread-like stems have leaves and bladder-like appendages densely arranged along them (3), although there are fewer bladders growing from floating stems than there are growing from those in the water column (2). The bladders are oval-shaped and have a mouth pointing away from the stem, which has simple hairs around the edge and two long appendages that curl backwards towards the stem. The parts of the plant that are buried in the substrate are colourless and produce more bladders than those in the water column or floating on the surface (3).

The inflorescence of the lesser bladderwort has between two and nine yellow flowers (2), each with two petals of which the lower petal is twice as long as the upper petal and is oval-shaped, whereas the upper petal is egg-shaped. The inflorescences are emergent and are borne on single, narrow stems (3).

Also known as
small bladderwort.
Petite Utriculaire, Utriculaire Mineure.
Flower length: 5 - 8 cm (2)
Stem length: up to 30 cm
Leaf length: 0.2 - 1.5 cm (3)

Lesser bladderwort biology

Very little information is available on the biology of the lesser bladderwort (3), although it is known to flower between June and August in certain parts of its range (2) and it is a perennial species, living for over two years (3).

The aboveground parts of the herbaceous lesser bladderwort die at the end of each growing season and the plant survives through winter as a turion, before growing back the following spring as ambient temperatures increase. This species is thought to reproduce vegetatively through subterranean rhizomes, although the presence of flowers and pollen suggests that it may also reproduce sexually, with its pollen being spread by insects (3).

The lesser bladderwort is a carnivorous plant which catches its prey in an extremely fast-moving trap that can react in around 0.002 seconds. When a prey item is inside the trap, it is ingested through glands, which also filter the contents of the trap. The traps are reset using the energy produced by respiration. The exact prey of the lesser bladderwort is unknown, although other Utricularia species are known to take insect larvae, copepods, algae, microscopic worms and water fleas (3).


Lesser bladderwort range

The extensive distribution of the lesser bladderwort stretches from Alaska in the west to Eurasia in the east, and southern populations also exist in the Himalayas, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea (1). Although it does occur in southern areas, this species is mostly found at northern latitudes in boreal locations (1) (3).


Lesser bladderwort habitat

The lesser bladderwort grows in the shallow water of fens (3), bogs, swamps and pastures and around the edges of lakes and ponds (1).


Lesser bladderwort status

The lesser bladderwort is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Lesser bladderwort threats

Changes in hydrologic regimes, habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species directly threaten the survival of lesser bladderwort populations. Changes in land use practices that alter the water quality can reduce the suitability of a habitat for this species and inhibit its growth (3).


Lesser bladderwort conservation

Although the lesser bladderwort is not thought to require conservation on a global scale, it may require local action in certain parts of its range, especially in Serbia where it is considered to be critically endangered and in Spain and Switzerland where it is listed as vulnerable. In France this species is already under regional protection (1). To ensure that this species does not become locally extinct, it has been recommended that its habitat should be protected and the water quality in those areas should be maintained (3).


Find out more

Find out more about the lesser bladderwort:

Find out more about North American plant conservation:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Areas at high northern latitudes surrounding the North Pole.
Feeding on flesh.
A large and diverse group of minute marine and freshwater crustaceans. They usually have an elongated body and a forked tail.
Aquatic plants whose stems and leaves extend beyond the water’s surface.
Wetland with alkaline, neutral or only slightly acidic peaty soil. The alkalinity arises due to ground water seeping through calcareous rocks (rocks containing calcium carbonate).
An organ that makes and secretes substances used by the body.
A small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
Describes species introduced deliberately or unintentionally outside their natural habitats where they have the ability to establish themselves, invade, outcompete natives and take over the new environments.
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
An underground, horizontal plant stem that produces roots and shoots.
Living underground, in caves or groundwater.
In plants, a fleshy, thick, young shoot or sucker. A well-known example is the emerging stem of asparagus.
Vegetative reproduction
Type of asexual reproduction (reproduction that does not involve the formation of sex cells) in which a new plant grows from part of another plant, rather than from seeds or spores. The resulting individual is genetically identical to the original plant.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2014)
  2. Washington Department of Natural Resources - Lesser bladderwort (April, 2014)
  3. Neid, S.L. (May, 2006) Utricularia minor L. (lesser bladderwort). A Technical Conservation Assessment. Available at:

Image credit

Lesser bladderwort growing in bog  
Lesser bladderwort growing in bog

© Bob Gibbons / www.ardea.com

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