Turkish Washcloth      Mastocarpus papillatus



This species of red algae is commonly found in rocky or gravely substrate in the mid to high intertidal zone.  This short bushy seaweed is around three to five inches across.  Small clumps of this seaweed are widely scattered over the beach making it hard to find unless you look closely.   Being so small, it shelters only a few marine snails and the occasional mud-flat crab.


The common name for this species  is derived from the knobby bumps on the surface of its blades and small size which looked to an old-time marine botanist like a turkish washcloth.  A larger, but related species, with a similar appearance is called a Turkish Towel.


Red algae are one of three major groups of marine algae that are commonly seen in the intertidal and subtidal zones.  The other kinds are Green algae and Brown Algae.  Red algae range in color from pinkish through yellow-green to dark purple.  The colors derive from differing amounts of two accessory pigments, a red one and a blue one. These colored pigments mask the green color of the chlorophyll that is used to capture sunlight.


This kind of red algae along with several other species are used by humans for a variety of purposes.  Most commonly the algae is harvested and processed to produce Agar.  Agar is a gelatinous material used as the bacterial growth medium in science labs as well as in drugs to promote slow release of active ingredients.   Agar is also used as a antidrying agent in baked goods and as a thickening agent in soups, sauces, salad dressing, jellies, and ice cream.  Agar is also used in cosmetics, lotions, and shaving cream.