Sugar Kelp   Laminaria saccharina



This large brown seaweed or kelp, like other kelp species, consists of a large flat “blade” and a short round “stipe” that connects to blade to the “holdfast” by which the plant is attached to a rock or cobble.  This species of kelp can be identified by the two rows of wrinkles along the blade.  It ranges from southern California to the Aleutian Islands.  It occurs in the extreme low intertidal zone and shallow subtidal zone in protected marine areas.


When young the sugar kelp can grow up to 6 to 9 feet long and 8 inches wide. The blade of a young plant, such as this one, would be free of hitchhikers such as bryozoan or hydroids. 


Several species of kelp are very large and dominate the nearshore area where they occur. These large species provide refuge for a wide variety of animals and plants.


The name kelp comes from the middle English word for ash.  Kelp was burned to produce an ash used in the production of soap.  It was also a principal source of iodine. The  sugar part of the name of this species comes from the high content of mannitol which is a sweet tasting chemical.


Sugar kelp has been cultured in British Columbia as a food for farmed sea urchins whose eggs are a delicacy in Japan.  Various species of Laminaria are eaten in China and Japan.  In Japan it is known as "kombu".


Kelp are members of the group of seaweeds known as brown algae which are very common in the marine environment.  They are distinguished from green and red seaweeds by the presence of brown accessory pigments in addition to chlorophyll.