Mystery of the Mossy Green Algae Ball Solved

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

Do you remember that picture of a mossy green algae ball I sent you and you posted, hoping somebody could identify it? Well Meg came up with the answer.

It is called the Pincushion of the Sea, or Astroturf of the Ocean, or Tuft Algae. It is Cladophora Columbiana. Despite being relatively common in the low to mid-intertidal zone its classification is a taxonomic battleground. Apparently the size of the balls that wash ashore are a good indication of the health of the intertidal zone.

Here’s a little excerpt from a page on the Monterey Marine Sanctuary page called Cladophora Balls on the Brain:  The URL is below.
Possible Uses for Cladophora Balls Cladophora Main Page Life History 1996 by Angie Nakano, who gives anyone permission to use anything on this page,

In Japan, Aegagropila enjoy somewhat of a “cult” following. A certain lake in Hokkaido is known to form especially perfect Cladophora balls, which the local “Aidic” people involve in their summer festival. A folktale accompanies the dense green spheres, in which the hearts of a young couple who drown in the lake turn into Cladophora balls. Aegagropila’s popularity in Japan has even spread to more urban areas. Tokyo has a bar named “Marimba,” the Japanese word for the balls, which sells plastic souvenirs in the the shape of the popular alga. In recent years, aegagropilous Cladophora has even become a protected species in Japan, and a Cladophora ball postage stamp has been issued.

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