[Global] Kayaking this cove is like paddling through human-sized noodle soup. Thickets of Nereocystis seaweed surround the boat. This species is also known as “bull whip kelp” for the long, thin stipes that rise from the deep.
The end of each kelp rope holds an air bulb about the size of a tennis ball. A line of leaf-like blades on the balls are similar to a Mohawk; or while floating on the surface they resemble the snakes on the head of Medusa.
On the beach, the kids play with the washed-up kelp. They jump rope with the bull whips, twirling a stipe over the head and chanting the rhyme: “Helicopter, helicopter, come to the ground” — then they hop over it as it circles around. They stomp on the air bladders trying to make the loudest popping sound. The seaweeds washed up are materials for kelp dolls — the Nereocystis bulbs are perfect heads, and other seaweeds are clothes and accessories. A seaweed beauty contest involves laying out the different varieties on the sand and voting on which have the most beautiful shapes and colors.
Seaweeds are grouped into greens, reds and browns (due to their photosynthesizing pigments). Here are some recognizable species to identify while kayaking, snorkeling, tidepooling or beachcombing:
- Greens: Look for the chartreuse blades of sea lettuce (genus name ulva) — their tissue-paper thin, transparent blades are only two-cells thick. Enteromorpha is a mass of green filaments that look like a scouring pad coating rocks — the thin threads host a microcommunity of sea worms and invertebrate larvae. In the subtidal or a deep tidepool you may find the green candelabra of Codium — more morbidly known as “dead man’s fingers.”
- Reds: There are four favorites to look for including a purplish blade the size of a hand with a bumpy surface called “Turkish towel.” Coralline is a species that looks like little animal skeletons. The rainbow seaweed (genus name Iridea) glimmers like oil as light refracts off the blades. Also, you can find sushi seaweed of the genus Porphyra — our local nori is brown instead of green, but also tasty.
- Browns: The “kelps” grow the biggest and longest. Macrocystis is the scientific name for the giant kelp that can grow 2-feet a day. It’s a favorite bed of the otter. Egregia is the “feather boa kelp” that looks exactly like its common name. Finally, Postelsia — the sea palms — bend and flex as the low tide waves batter them around as in a tropical hurricane.
Enjoy the diversity of our shoreline seaweeds up and down the Pacific coast — they are quite sensational.
View original article at: Deborah McArthur, Nature Connection: Taking a look at sensational seaweeds