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Laminaria saccharina

"Sugar kelp"


This brown alga is a type of kelp, and it is relatively familiar to many beach-goers as that large seaweed that looks something like a giant lasagna noodle. As seen here, you may find small specimens as well. The kelps that grow in Rhode Island waters are tiny in comparison to those that grow off the west coast. Sacchar-, from which the specific epithet (species name) saccharina is derived, means "sugar". The kelps make a special sugar caller "lanminarin". In one way, kelps kind of grow like your lawn: the growing point or meristem is hidden safely below, so you can mow off the tops without killing the organism. Off the west coast of the US, there are special boats that periodically "mow" the kelp forests and harvest the top portions of the kelp blades. From this material, we can extract useful products such as laminarin, mannitol, and alginic acid. Alginic acid, also known as algin, is used in many different products that we use every day.