[USA] Seaweeds and seagrasses are known best for becoming entangled in our toes when we walk on sand or swim close to shore. However, their gelatinous and flaccid nature as beach wrack belies the strength, beauty and intrigue they exhibit in life. Josie Iselin’s recent book, The Curious World of Seaweed, provides a glimpse of the liminal coastal zone they have occcupied for millions of years.
This capsule collection of 16 seaweeds and seagrasses is a combination of extensive algal displays and deeply researched essays. The algae and seagrasses themselves are brought to life through a combination of detailed illustrations, lithographs, and Iselin’s trademark algal impressions made via a a flatbed scanner. Additionally, each seaweed/seagrass gets its own treatise with explorations of their curious biology and ecology.
We also learn about Iselin’s personal interactions with the weed or grass and hear stories about the bevvy of naturalists – many of which are self-taught women botanists – that have helped us better understand this underwater world. Amongst the many people that Iselin introduces us to are Arhcibald Menzies, who lent his name to the Feather Boa Kelp, Egregia menziesii; the intrepid researcher who helped revolutionize the Nori industry, Kathleen Drew Baker; and English botanist Anna Atkins, whose cyanotype prints inspire some of Iselin’s that we see throughout the book.
Iselin takes great care in describing the diversity of red, green, and brown algae, from Giant Kelp to the more descriptively named Dead Man’s Fingers, Rainbow Leaf, and Sea Grapes. She also shares their fraught taxonomy, complex and highly differentiated reproductive strategies, and the pigments that allow them to harvest light while giving them the rich and luscious colors that humans see.
Photo: The Curious World of Seaweed by Josie Iselin and some Red Algae
View original article at: Alien algae are demystified in Josie Iselin’s newest book “The Curious World of Seaweed”
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