Okavango Delta

Tiny Carnivorous Plants of the Okavango Delta


Robert Taylor


Utricularia, commonly known as bladderworts, is a cosmopolitan genus of mostly-aquatic, carnivorous plants. Bladders on their stems act as floating traps for small organisms, while hairs on the bladders are triggered by passing prey, the bladder – under negative pressure – opens a trapdoor, sucking in the prey and surrounding water, closing again in a matter of milliseconds.


Bladderworts feed on water fleas, nematodes and even fish fry and mosquito larvae. Some 233 species occur worldwide and bladderworts are often cultivated by enthusiasts who prize them for their delicate flowers and unusual carnivorous habits.


Some Utricularia species found in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.


Utricularia raynalii is a small species of bladderwort previously only known from tropical Africa where it grows in lakes, pools, bogs and marshes, and seasonally flooded grasslands.


Wilderness Conservation Ecologist Rob Taylor, together with enthusiasts on inaturalist.org, recently discovered this species in Botswana in the wetland between Vumbura Plains’ camp area and the workshop. Not only was this find a huge range extension for this rarely-observed species (the previous southernmost record being from Rwanda) but it also represented the first documented photographs of this species.


This acts as a reminder to keep our eyes open for ferocious carnivores when out in the field – new discoveries are still to be made in the wilderness!


Utricularia raynalii photographed at Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta

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