Thick mats of seaweed wash ashore on beaches along the Jurassic Coast. Dead seaweed is often automatically viewed as horrid, unsightly, and a nuisance – but if you pause and look, there is beauty in it. There are many types of seaweed to be discovered in the masses on this strandline. Their fronds intertwine in a kind of accidental natural weaving. Each species has its own characteristic shape, texture, and pattern. Their combined presence forms greater abstract designs of infinite variety, the individual fronds making strands or threads as in a tapestry. The puckered patterns of the crinkly Sugar Kelp stand out as the most decorative features of the assemblage. The colours change from deep olive brown to golden yellow and cream as the algae decompose. The textures range from leathery to satiny, from slimy to crispy depending on moisture content. Opaque and hardening on exposure to air; or translucent and soft when floating in shallow water rock pools.
In life, the calcareous seaweed called Coral Weed (Corallina officinalis Linnaeus) is pink. You can see some pictures of this living pink alga in the previous post. It belongs to the group of red seaweeds or Rhodophyceae. However, when dead, the red pigments of Coral Weed disappear and its strange, white, chalky, articulated ‘skeleton’ remains. Similarly, the smooth, rock-coating calcareous alga known as Pink Paint (Lithamnion sp.) bleaches out from purplish pink when dead and exposed to the elements and turns white.
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