These plants are dealt with together because three of the four genera are members of the family Lentibulariaceae (Genlisea, Polypompholyx, and Utricularia) and two of the four genera are primarily aquatic (Aldrovanda and Utricularia). They are lesser known carnivorous plants although they are just as fascinating to cultivate.
There are almost 300 species of Utricularia distributed throughout the world from the tropics to the Arctic. Without a doubt, this is the most widespread genus of carnivorous plants.
The elucidation of the carnivorous habit of this genus began to unfold when Cohn, in 1857, discovered that they captured Perch fry. Both Cohn and Darwin thought that the prey pushed the trap-door open, entered, and when the door closed found themselves entrapped. It was Mary Treat, who in 1876, discovered that the prey did not swim into the trap, but rather were sucked in when the trap was set off and thereby captured.
Early observers, such as Cohn, Darwin, and Goebel, were aware that the prey disintegrated in the bladders. It was difficult to establish, however, if this was the result of decay or the action of digestive enzymes because of the small size of the bladders. Darwin's few experiments on enzymatic digestion produced negative results so he concluded that they did not. Luetzelburg in 1910 was the first to obtain evidence of digestive activity by enzymes in Utricularia. The extent of the role of bacterial action has not been established.
Both the United States Fish Commission and the Commissioner of Fisheries for the State of New York, U.S.A., published bulletins in the late 1800s on Utricularia under the title of Piscivorous (fish eating) Plants.
Utricularia is derived from the Latin word "utriculus" meaning little bag or s.n alluding to the traps of the plant. The common name Bladderwort originated from tin bladder-shaped traps of Utricularia.
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