At the front of the line-up are these seaweeds from beaches in the Campbell River area.
At the top of the subtidal zone, just beyond the low tide line, the seaweeds form a tangled jungle, swaying hypnotically in the waves. On some beaches we could wade, carefully, through them; on others, the rocks are hidden and treacherous. It's probably better to stay out. Under and in that jungle, small animals crawl and swim; star- and sun-fish, sea cucumbers, sea slugs, gunnels and spinfish. And crabs, especially kelp crabs, with their long legs and pincers. We neither want to step on them nor be nipped by an angry crab. But we can stand on a safe rock, watching the play of textures and colours: astonishing colours!
(Update: IDs corrected as per Hana's comment.)
|Feathery seaweeds, sea lettuce, something red, and rockweed.|
|Reds, purples, browns, with sea lettuce for contrast, and a purply sheen on the water.|
On the flat sands just above this zone, we often found entire fields of these little yellow-green balls, growing to about the size of a meatball.
|A small ball; it's hollow. The seaweed beside it is the stem, but balls this size are often floating free. The walls are sturdy so they hold their shape.|
Around and under the pier in Campbell River, tall forests of bull kelp wave their fronds in the current, or tangle themselves around the pilings. On the beaches, the kelps are smaller and varied; crinkly, spiky, frilled; green, brown, and red.
|Sugar wrack and winged kelp. Imagine upholstery in those textures.|
|Two more kinds of kelp.|
|Red algae, on the left.|
From Hana, in the comments,
Sometimes, red algae can look like kelp if they are brown! The fun way to tell reds from browns is the "boingy-boingy test". If you try to stretch your seaweed, and it is springy (boingy-boingy) then you have a red.
"Boingy-boingy"! I'm sure to remember that!
|Even the decaying seaweeds are beautiful. This is a sun-bleached scrap of Turkish towel.|
|Everyday sea lettuce, with a small crab scrambling over it.|
There was one other that I expected to find in this folder; I must have misfiled it. Watching the waves toss the seaweed around, I saw what appeared to be an oil sheen on some fronds. I was angry; such beautiful, clear water, such abundant life, and someone upstream was spilling oil!
When I got home, browsing through my books, I found the seaweed. It's Iridescent seaweed, or rainbow seaweed. The structure of the cell walls gives it an oily blue gloss. It's nice to be proved wrong, sometimes.
*Update: Christopher Taylor adds, in the comments,
They're also known as 'o(y)ster thieves'. The name apparently derives from cases where they've grown in oyster farms in Europe; as the mature oyster thief becomes larger and filled with gas, it may eventually float away with the oyster attached.
**Update # 2: Hana has more info about these balls.
The round brown balls are known as Leathesia difformis - or "sea cauliflower". The oyster thief seaweeds look really similar, but are actually another species: Colpomenia peregrina. You can tell them apart because the oyster thief has a bit of a thinner texture. Leathesia feels kind of crunchy, where as Colpomenia is a bit more of a sac.Thanks, Christopher and Hana! I had wondered about these, but the description in my encyclopedia seemed to match the Colpomenia. However, they did definitely feel "kind of crunchy", which would make them Leathesia.