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Your Local Seaweed Guide 

There are nearly 800 species of seaweed on the West Coast, and many of them grow right here, on the local coast. We often tend to ignore seaweed, unless we find ourselves tangled in it while swimming, but anyone willing to take a closer look will have no trouble understanding its appeal to collectors: it’s colorful, comes in an astonishing range of shapes and textures, and it can be found along almost any stretch of shoreline.

Here are some of the most frequently encountered local species, all of them colorful enough to delight the heart of any seaweed enthusiast!

Callophyllis is a widely distributed red algae genus with several local species. Its thin, flat blades make it a great choice for pressing, and the red color remains vivid even after the seaweed has dried. There are specimens in Victorian collections that are still as colorful today as they were the day they were collected. All photos by Suzanne Guldimann
Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, is instantly recognizable for its rope-like stipe, oval floats—officially pneumatocysts—and large, leathery, wrinkled fronds. Fast-growing to as tall as 50 meters, giant kelp is a keystone species on the Southern Coast of California, forming undersea forests that support an entire ecosystem, from kelp-dependent invertebrates to sharks and marine mammals like sea lions.
Ruffled and bright neon green, sea lettuce—Ulva lactuca—is unmistakable. This widely distributed algae is nutrient-rich, fast-growing, and edible, although how edible depends on local water quality.
Common Coralline, Corallina officinalis, grows abundantly on the rocks in tide pools and frequently washes up on the beach. As the name implies, it resembles coral, and depending on conditions ranges in color from magenta to pale pink.
Marine algae provide critical habitat for a host of organisms, including this sea anemone, at home in a miniature tide pool garden of pink coralline, red Callophyllis, and vivid green sea lettuce.
The aptly-named Feather Boa Kelp, Egregia menziesii, really does resemble its namesake. The floats are similar to those of giant kelp, but they grow close to the flat, ribbon-like stipe. E. meziesii is abundant in local tidepools, where it shades and shelters a host of intertidal species.

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