Of sea lettuces and green sea intestines: common intertidal green seaweeds of the Cape Peninsula

11 Feb 2014

Most of us know seaweed as that slippery stuff growing on the rocks or lying strewn along the beach at low tide making the beach smell. But do we really know much about them? Although not entirely true, seaweeds (or marine algae) are generally considered to be plants because they use solar energy to produce carbohydrate food from carbon dioxide and water (photosynthesis). They are simpler than land plants as they have no roots or shoots. Seaweeds absorb nutrients directly from the seawater; and therefore have no need for roots or complex conductive tissue. Some large seaweeds do however have root-like structures called holdfasts and leaf-like fronds that act like shoots. The photosynthetic pigments they possess reflect certain colours of light, producing what appear to be green, brown and red seaweeds, and thus they are divided into three main groups: green brown and red. In this article we examine some of the green seaweeds that occur in the Cape Peninsula.