Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Witches Hair, Green Ribbons and Turkish Towels

I was almost inclined to give up. I had a file full of recent seaweed photos, the helpful ID site at the Washington State University, and to bring me right down to this area, Kozloff's "Seashore Life ...". It should have been a simple matter to sort our photos into the right slots.

Nothing is ever simple.

And I had no idea of the rich variety of seaweeds on our shores. The more I read, the more "possibles" for each photo I found. And the more closely I looked at the photos, the more different seaweeds I discovered crowding into the frame. It's a wild, exuberant, teeming habitat there, where the water meets the land.

In the end, I had to settle for a tentative ID for many seaweeds, a question mark for the rest. And a resolution to look more closely, more carefully, next trip to the beach.

So here they are; some of the seaweeds of the upper intertidal zone of the rocky shore on the headland at Kwomais Point.

Rockweed, again. And some sort of mushy "ground cover", one of the brown algae, I think.

Not an onion. A small kelp, bleached white, tossed up from the lower zones.

Turkish towel, Chondracanthus, with a side dressing of rockweed.

Sea lettuce. But what are those fat "fingers" beside it? I can't find anything like them.

Another mystery weed. There were several of these, all white, about a hand's-breadth long, attached to the sand under the stones.

Stringy Acid Kelp, Demarestia viridis. I think.

I think this is sugar kelp. The holdfast is visible on this one. That helps.

And this is another kelp, probably.

Eelgrass, and some sort of green seaweed, sea hair, green ribbon, or something similar.

And the stuff at the bottom of the photo? This one has me tearing my hair.

It looks like Witches Hair, Demarestia aculeata. Except that this one has tiny "olives" growing on it. I found great masses of these, separate from the parent weed, filling gaps between rocks.

Here's a handful.

Help! What are these?

And I've learned a few things:
  • Always take notes.
  • Measure things. Or add a known element to the photo, like a pen or a dime. Rocks won't do.
  • Touch the seaweeds. Smell them. I think I've seen Bleachweed around this area; if I had handled some, I would have noticed the smell of bleach.
  • Look at the holdfast. Some are like roots, others like a disc.
  • Check them out both wet and dry.
  • Carry sample bottles and bags. Always. Not just sometimes.
There's always something new to see. And having seen it and named it, we see even more the next time.


  1. The handful:

    Sargassum muticum?


  2. That's it, Hugh. The website says the bladders are <3mm. in diameter; I hadn't thought to take a ruler, so I counted the lines on my palm (in the photo) and then on my hand. The largest of these bladders was about 3mm.

    I wonder why they are floating free. Part of the reproductive cycle? I didn't see many pieces of branches with the bladders, which is the method described in that site.


  3. And thanks for the link. (Exotics Guide) That is a handy site: I've bookmarked it.

  4. The little pearls or balls--try Sailor's Eyeball Valonia Ventricosa and the other option is Sea Grapes Caulerpa racemosa


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