Seaweed Strands with Crinkled Kelp

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.

Strandline Seaweeds at Ringstead Bay

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

Many UK shorelines are characterised by the wealth of seaweeds that colonise them. These seaweeds are as often likely to become detached from where they have settled and subsequently wash ashore, sometimes in great profusion and abundance. The textures and colours are varied with representatives of many groups – often with species of brown (Phaeophyceae), green (Chlorophyceae), and red (Rhodophyceae) marine algae. They contribute to a great multi-coloured strandline along the waters’ edge and provide the average beachcomber with an opportunity to discover and appreciate varieties of algae normally well out of reach.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

A fresh strandline assortment of seaweeds of different colours and textures.

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Kelp Textures at Ringstead

Detail of entangled branching rootlets of a detached kelp holdfast on a beach stone at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, UK, (1) 

This tentacle-like entanglement, which seems to exude blood as it clings to the pebble, is a kelp seaweed holdfast washed ashore at Ringstead Bay, Dorset. It is likely to be from a Tangleweed or Oarweed – Laminaria digitata (Hudson) Lamouroux. It has been separated from the stem and frond of the alga so it is difficult to name with certainty. It could also be from a Sea Belt or Poor Man’s Weather Glass, Laminaria saccharina (Linnaeus); both types of seaweed wash up on this beach.

The wrinkled leathery texture of the wavy-edged stem of some kelp drying out on the beach at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, UK (2)

The wrinkled, leathery, rufous brown subject for the second photograph is a detail of the strongly-waved, frilly edge of a flattened seaweed stem. This is part of the Furbelows kelp, Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters. The stem is changing from its normal greenish brown to a darker reddy brown colour; and from a smooth thin structure to one with a thicker, rougher, rippled texture as it dies and dries out.

Translucent kelp frond with water droplets on the beach at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, UK (3) 

This third photograph shows one of many kelp fronds on the Ringstead shore that had completely lost their colour and opacity. The washed-up fronds were clear or tranlucent and seemed to both contain bubbles or capsules within the structure as well as to be covered on both upper and lower surfaces with droplets of rain water. The light was reflected by the shiny, smooth, wet surfaces. These fronds might be from either the Furbelows, or Tangleweed or Cuvie kelps – the isolated fronds or blades being indistinguishable to the casual observer.

The features that resemble bubbles in the blades are probably “unilocular sporangia” from which the spores for the new generation of kelp develop. 

The fourth and final photograph below shows a detail of the holdfast which is typical of the Furbelows kelp. It is a hollow, approximately ball-shaped structure by which the seaweed attaches to rocks. The surface is warty and there are short, stubby rootlets.

Knobbly texture of a drying globular kelp holdfast at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, UK (4)  

Revision of a post first published 29 September 2009

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Crinkly seaweed from Ringstead Bay

Crinkled puckered glossy seaweed (Laminaria saccharina), also known as Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass - View 1 

Sea Belt is a very common British seaweed. It is also known as the Poor Man’s Weatherglass because, if you hang it up crisp and dry, it will go limp in damp weather and forecast the rain. Its Latin name is Laminaria saccharina (Linnaeus) Lamouroux. This seaweed has the most wonderful glossy, crinkled, wrinkled, folded, and wavy flat fronds. The texture is mostly puckered like the fabric called seer-sucker. I have previously described this species in more detail in Kelps at Kimmeridge Bay and Three brown seaweeds from Studland Bay in spring.

I recently bought an old book called A Popular History of British Seaweeds -comprising their structure, fructification, specific characters, arrangement, and general distribution with notices of some of the Fresh-Water Algae. It was written by the Rev. D. Landsborough, A.L.S. and published in London in 1857. 

Landsborough’s book is a total delight to read and a mine of interesting information – although some facts are now out of date. It is illustrated throughout with beautiful hand-tinted plates on which the previous owner has most carefully labelled each seaweed specimen in neat pencilled handwriting. As a clergyman, the writer was keen to remind the reader that everything he described was a wonder of nature for which the Almighty must be thanked. 

I thought you might be interested to read an excerpt from the Reverend gentleman’s account of Laminaria saccharina.

The full-grown plants are not only beautifully waved at the margin like the young plants, but they are frequently bullated and rugose, and thickened at the centre. The substance varies from cartilaginous to leathery. The colour is olive-brown, tinged with yellow. It is well deserving of the name saccharine, for, as I mentioned before, it has been proved, by my friend Dr. Stenhouse, to be rich in mannite, which is nearly as sweet as sugar. With all this however to sweeten it, it is not relished as food; indeed the Norwegians, we are told, esteem it so lightly that they call it Toll-tare, implying that it is fit food for the Fiend. But He who made all things very good, made it for good purposes. It is not despised by the farmer, who finds that it yields nourishment to his crops. It is a great favourite with some of the beautiful “minims of nature”, and the young naturalist will find that he is amply repaid for the careful examination of its fronds. Beautiful mollusks may be found gliding along them, and they are the fixed habitation of many zoophytes: Flustra membranacea covering it to a great extent with its fine, silvery, lace-like web.

“Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand,

A habitation marvellously planned,

For life to occupy.” 

 Crinkled glossy Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass seaweed (Laminaria saccharina) on the shingle beach at Ringstead, Dorset, UK. View 2

Crinkled puckered glossy textured seaweed (Laminaria saccharina), also known as Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass - View 3

Detail of the wavy, folded edge of the crinkled, puckered, glossy textured seaweed (Laminaria saccharina), also known as Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass - View 4

Detail of the shiny, puckered texture of the kelp Laminaria saccharina, also known as Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass - View 5

Detail of the wavy, glossy border of the kelp Laminaria saccharina, also known as Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass - View 6

Detail of the puckered, shiny , central blade of Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass seaweed (Laminaria saccharina). View 7

Detail of the frilly translucent edge of Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass seaweed (Laminaria saccharina). View 8

Detail of the wrinkled and rumpled glossy frond of Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass seaweed (Laminaria saccharina). View 9

Sea Belt or Poor Man's Weatherglass seaweed (Laminaria saccharina) washed ashore on the pebble beach at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast. View 10

Revision of a post first published 8 March 2010

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Furbelows Seaweed at Studland Bay

Furbelows seaweed (Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters, washed ashore at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast 30.08.2011 (1)

The seaweed that had washed ashore most frequently, when I recently visited Studland beach, was a brown kelp commonly called Furbelows, with the Latin name Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters. The interesting features of this common British brown alga (Phaeophyceae) are the odd bulbous hollow holdfast with its warty surface texture and ‘rootlets; and the curious thin, flat, wavy, and folded edges that project from the stem. Both of these characters are shown in close-up photographs here. I have also written about this species in earlier posts where you can find more information about FURBELOWS: https://natureinfocus.wordpress.com/?s=Saccorhiza+polyschides.

Close-up the holdfast of the Furbelows seaweed (Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters, washed ashore at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast 30.08.2011 (2)

Close-up of the warty surface texture of the holdfast on the Furbelows seaweed (Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters, washed ashore at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast 30.08.2011 (3)

Close-up of the thin wavy folded edgeson the edge of the lower stem of the Furbelows seaweed (Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters, washed ashore at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast 30.08.2011 (4)

Close-up of the wavy flattened and folded edges on the edge stem of the Furbelows seaweed (Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters, washed ashore at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast 30.08.2011 (5)

Furbelows seaweed (Saccorhiza polyschides (Lightfoot) Batters, washed ashore at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast 30.08.2011 (6)

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Thongweed: perennial discs & fertile straps

The button-shaped fixed perennial frond of Thongweed that seasonally bears, and sheds, long fertile straps; on rocks at Winspit, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (1) 

Masses of the  olive-green seaweed, commonly known as Thongweed,  are a frequent sight on the seashores along the Jurassic Coast. The Latin name for this type of brown alga is Himanthalia elongata (Linnaeus) Gray.

These tangled stringy heaps represent just a part of the whole seaweed. They are the seasonally produced free-floating reproductive parts. They are cast off periodically from the longer-lived, fixed, part of this member of the group Phaeophycae. The perennial part is permanently fixed to the substrate in deep inter-tidal rock pools low on the shore or off-shore. It is not so frequently observed or recognised as the straps. 

The perennial part of the alga is surprisingly small given that the fertile straps can be more than two metres long. The plant starts off as a small club-shaped structure a few millimetres wide and attached by a short stalk to the rock. The swollen tip gradually enlarges and flattens out into a roughly circular, flattened disc about 30 mm wide with a dimpled or concave surface – resembling a button or mushroom.

Photographs of this structure are shown above and below. They were found in pools on the rock platform at Winspit – near to extreme low tide – growing on Pink Paint (a calcareous encrusting alga) amongst Coral Weed and other filamentous red seaweeds. Two small bumps in the middle of the cupped surface indicate where the reproductive straps were once attached.

The long straps change from their original light olive green colour to a more yellowish shade with brown spots when they are ripe and ready to shed the reproductive products into the sea. This is shown in the photographs below. 

Thongweed has also been described in earlier posts. These include:

Thongweed at Chapmans Pool

Tangled thongweed

Seaweed-inspired fabric design 

Two disc-shaped fixed perennial fronds of Thongweed that seasonally bear, and shed, the more familiar long fertile straps; on rocks with Coral Weed and red algae at Winspit, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (2) 

Pale, olive green, mushroom-shaped, fixed perennial fronds of Thongweed that seasonally bear, and shed, the more commonly found long fertile straps; on rocks with Coral Weed and red algae at Winspit, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (3)

Loosely coiled strands of long, mottled yellow-green reproductive straps of Thongweed, floating in a deep rock pool at Winspit, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (4)

Close-up of long, mottled yellow-green reproductive straps of Thongweed, floating in a deep rock pool at Winspit, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (5)  

Revision of a post previously published 27 May 2010

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Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed at Studland

Studland Bay seaweed: Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed with reproductive cystocarps on the fronds, on the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (1) 

Is it Gracilaria verrucosa (Hudson) Papenfuss, or Gracilariopsis longissima (S.G.Gmelin) M.Steentoft, L.M.Irvine & W.F.Farnham – or something else? I’m a bit confused.

To be honest, I am not absolutely certain of the identification of the seaweed in this post. I thought I was – but I have been looking at a lot of books, some of which were published a very long time ago. Now I have looked on-line as well and I am not so certain. This is because science marches on.  Re-evaluation of taxonomic groupings take place in the light of new discoveries. Scientific names change accordingly. Former single species become subdivided into more than one species, or varieties of species, as our knowledge and techniques for investigation improve. Recent developments in DNA can throw light on the complexities in nature. What once seemed fairly simple can turn out to be very complicated. That’s my excuse for uncertainty here.

Although this seaweed found washed ashore at Studland Bay is mostly a light yellow-green, olive-green colour, it is actually a member of the red seaweed group or Rhodophycaea. You can see that some of the fronds are actually pink grading into green (photographs 4-6). Red seaweeds contain red pigment but also have green chlorophyll pigment; and the colour of the alga depends on the conditions of growth.

This genus has separate male and female individuals, and it also reproduces asexually. This is the first time I have seen the seaweed bearing reproductive or fruiting bodies. The small dark pimples or tubercles, on the slender much-branched yellow green fronds of the first three photographs, are the fertile cystocarps of the female seaweed. 

This type of seaweed is an economically important  agar producer. In South Australia during the Second World War large quantities of this abundantly-growing seaweed were harvested for use as a gelatine substitute in tinned meats. In the Sydney area alone, 300 tons of weed, equating to 60 tons of agar, were collected annually (Dickinson, 1963, p 138). At the present time it continues to be grown and harvested for commercial use in the food industry. 

Studland seaweed close-up: Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed - close-up showing reproductive cystocarps on the fronds, from the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (2)

Cystocarps on seaweed at Studland: Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed - close-up showing reproductive cystocarps on the fronds, from the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (3)

Common British seaweeds: Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed with no reproductive cystocarps on the fronds, washed up on the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (4)

Green and pink filamentous seaweed at Studland: Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed with no reproductive cystocarps on the fronds, washed up on the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (5)

Yellow-green seaweed with many branches: Gracilaria verrucosa seaweed close-up without reproductive cystocarps on the fronds, washed up on the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (6)

I found the following sources useful in my attempts to identify and understand this type of seaweed.

SOURCE 1

19th Century seaweed picture: Illustration of Gracilaria confervoides seaweed (shown on far right of the page) from the book "Popular History of British Seaweeds" by the Rev. Landsborough published in1857 (7)

A Popular History of British Seaweeds comprising their structure, fructification, specific characters, arrangement, and general distribution with notices of some of the Freshwater Algae, Rev. D. Landsborough, A.L.S., Third Edition, published in London, by Lovell Reeve, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, 1857.

SOURCE 2

Botanical drawing of seaweed Gracillaria confervoides: Illustration of Gracilaria confervoides (verrucosa) from the book "Handbook of the British Seaweeds" by Lily Newton published in 1931 (8)

A  handbook of the British Seaweeds, Lily Newton, Ph.D., F.L.S., Professor of Botany, University College, Aberystwyth, published in London by The Trustees of the British Museum, British Museum (Natural History), Cromwell Road, S.E.7, 1931.

SOURCE 3

British Seaweeds, Carola I. Dickinson, The Kew Series, published in London by Eyre & Spottiswode, 1963.

SOURCE 4

Sea Shore of Britain and Northern Europe, Collins Pocket Guide, Peter Hayward, Tony Nelson-Smith & Chris Shields, published in London by HarperCollins, 1996, ISBN 0 00 219955 6.

SOURCE 5

algaeBASE

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Japweed at Chapmans Pool

Japweed at Chapmans Pool: Fronds of Japweed, Sargassum muticum (Yendo) Fensholt, washed up on a rock platform at Chapmans Pool, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (1) 

Individual feathery fronds of Japweed can look very decorative when washed ashore and displayed against the natural sediments of the beach. Here this seaweed is shown naturally spread out by the ebbing tide on a flat rock platform at Chapmans Pool. It has a very characteristic appearance and on this occasion the alga is a lovely golden green colour. However, en masse this alien species, Sargassum muticum (Yendo) Fensholt, can constitute a great menace to the environment – as I have detailed in earlier posts.

Frond of Japweed, Sargassum muticum (Yendo) Fensholt, washed up on rocks at Chapmans Pool, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast. 

The odd specimen of Japweed ends up artfully arranged by accident among the boulders.

Japweed growing in the sea at Chapmans Pool: Brown patches beneath the surface of the water showing growing beds of Japweed and Thongweed at Chapmans Pool, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (3)

The extensive beds of growing weed are in deeper water of the lower shore. It was not possible to tell which part of this floating brown mass was Japweed and which was Thongweed on my visit as I could not wade out to look (the rock platform is very slippery) but their position is easy to see from afar.

Fronds of Japweed, Sargassum muticum (Yendo) Fensholt, and other seaweeds washed up on the beach at Chapmans Pool, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (4) 

Much of the time, the Japweed is stranded in clumps inter-mixed with other algal types – as shown in the picture below where a bundle of Japweed, Thongweed, Bladder Wrack and assorted red seaweeds lay on the mixed substrate shore of fine gravel, pebbles, and stones on the eastern edge of Chapmans Pool.

Japweed (an accidentally introduced alien seaweed species) washed ashore on the rock platform at Chapmans Pool, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (5) 

 Revision of a post first published 3 July 2009

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Seaweed-inspired fabric design

Seaweed scarf: Detail of Seaweed Scarf designed by Miyamota Eiji exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK (1)

On a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London, I discovered the Textile Galleries. Fabulous fabrics – both ancient and modern – were displayed. I was fascinated by the work of the world famous present-day Japanese designer Miyamoto Eiji whose work was inspired by nature. Of particular interest was his Seaweed Scarf – pictured immediately above and below.

The Seaweed Scarf is a skilfully crafted triple-weave fabric. Its intricately textured and coloured surface of pleats, shirrings and crumplings have been created to evoke an impression of seaweed undulating in water.

I have lots of photographs of seaweed in water. I wondered if I had any images in my collection that might reflect that kind of inspirational subject. I came up with the following pictures – all showing Thongweed floating in the sea just offshore from Winspit in Dorset. The long strands of pale olive coloured seaweed were being flicked and drawn, to and fro, by the undulating waves. I thought the photographs were a good approximation of the idea being captured by the textile designer.

P.S. The V&A Textile Galleries are currently closed (April 2011) while the collection is being relocated to a new building.

Design inspired by nature: Another detail of the Seaweed Scarf designed by Miyamota Eiji exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK(2)

Floatinf seaweed: Thongweed floating in sea water at Winspit, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (3)

Floating seaweed: Thongweed floating in sea water at Winspit, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (4)

Common British seaweed: Thongweed floating in sea water at Winspit, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (5)

Dorset seaweeds: Thongweed floating in sea water at Winspit, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (6)

Natural inspiration for design: Thongweed floating in sea water at Winspit, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (7)

 Himanthalia elongata image: Floating Thongweed, Himanthalia elongata (Linnaeus) Gray, at Winspit, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast (8)

 Revision of a post first published 2 June 2010

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