Plants & Algae

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This slideshow features illustrations of some of the plants and animals that William Dampier, a naturalist and pirate, observed in Australia (then known as New Holland) and New Guinea. Learn more about Dampier in...
Seagrasses growing on the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay rely on light to grow—...
Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance with their ecosystems,...
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Often it's the tiniest organisms that do the most harm. One example is...

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This beautiful bromeliad, also called an air plant because it gets its nutrients and water from the air, is a flowering plant in the pineapple family. All of them are epiphytes, meaning they get their support from and grow on...
Sargassum fluitans , a.k.a. “Gulfweed,” forms dense clumps up to the size of...
Many species of pink coralline algae cover a reef surface in the Southern...

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Around 100 million years ago, grass from land adapted to live and reproduce while submerged in seawater—the modern-day...
Around 100 million years ago, grass from land adapted to live and reproduce while submerged in seawater—the modern-day seagrasses. This sea invasion by land plants happened four separate times,...
Both humans and sea lions get sick from eating fish and shellfish that have been feeding on harmful toxic algae. Studying the sick sea lions brings scientists closer to understanding and preventing...
Macroscopic Algae ( Acetabularia crenulata ). More about mangrove ecosystems can be found in the Mangroves section .
Johnson's seagrass is the lone ocean plant species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Its flowing green stalks play an important role in coastal ecosystems where they act as nursery grounds for...
Giant kelp ( Macrocystis pyrifera ) is large, brown algae that grows in dense forests along coasts around the world. Long stalks anchor each plant to the seafloor, and they grow meters high like...
Seagrasses growing on the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay rely on light to grow—but, thanks to pollution, that sunlight has become more scarce. Nutrient runoff from fertilizers causes microscopic...
Broad-leaf seagrass ( Posidonia australis ) with algae epiphytes grows at Corner Inlet Marine National Park in Australia . The marine park protects large areas of seagrass habitat from fishing—but it...
The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is gathered around...
Squids, octopuses and cuttlefish, such as this Australian Giant Cuttlefish ( Sepia apama ), compose just one group of animals that call seagrass beds home. Clams and worms bury themselves in the mud...
Stare at a tide pool and you will often see a crust of pink coating the bottom. No, this is not bubblegum from some careless teenager’s shoe: it’s a stony kind of seaweed that, like other seaweeds,...
One of the first signs of a sick coral reef is seaweed creeping across the corals, stealing their precious sunny real estate. Healthy corals, however, aren't completely hopeless: in some reefs, small...
For more than two centuries, Boston Harbor has been a dumping ground. In 1773, colonists famously dumped shiploads of tea to protest taxes. But in recent decades, the harbor has received less tea and...
“Sea grapes” may sound like something Poseidon would snack on, and not a killer algae. Yet Caulerpa racemosa var. cylindracea poses a serious threat to marine life. Spread by the bilge water of boats...
This beautiful marine diatom Chaetoceros debilis was caught in the North Sea. Not only are diatoms one of the most important oxygen producers on earth, they are also a vital link in the food chain...
One of the most common inhabitants of the sargassum community, the shrimp Latreutes fucorum (Hippolytidae) is perfectly colored to hide on the leaf-like blades. Off the coast of Belize, Smithsonian...
Bull kelp ( Nereocystis ) becomes less valuable to grazers as it quickly rots.
Closest to the seeps, where the pH is lowest and the water is most acidic, corals no longer grow. Instead there are sand, rubble and seagrasses that are able to survive. Read more about how reef...
Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance with their ecosystems, limited by the amount of nutrients in the water. But sometimes, certain species of algae reproduce so rapidly that they...
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