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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tall ships and small palms

By special request (via Megan), here are two photos of one of the tall ships, the Hawaiian Chieftain, sailing off Bodega Head on 8 April 2012 — one with the ship on the horizon and another zoomed in to see some of the details.

The tall ships were in Bodega Bay to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Fort Ross where Russians settled in 1812.  Along with establishing the Fort, Russians explored the coast and documented many local species.

One of the most distinctive species collected and described by a naturalist (Ruprecht) associated with Russian expeditions is the Sea Palm (Postelsia palmaeformis)Bodega Rock, the rocky islet off the southern end of Bodega Head, is the type locality for Sea Palm (the place from which it was collected when first described to science).

In the foreground of the first photo (above) you can see a cluster of Sea Palms on the rocks in the lower right corner.  But this charismatic kelp is worth a closer look.

Here's a group of adults displaying their palm-like appearance.

Below is a close-up of a Sea Palm holdfast, the root-like base that attaches the alga to the substrate.

Sea Palms are saxicolous (growing on rocks), but are also found attached to animals such as mussels and barnacles, as well as to coralline algae. 

They tend to prefer surf-pounded sites (see below).  Although they can grow up to 60 cm tall, they have a flexible, hollow, cylindrical stipe (or stem) that bends with the waves.

Sea Palms are annuals, reproducing every spring and summer and dying back during the winter. 

Unless you're looking closely, you may miss the very small juveniles that are beginning to grow during the late winter and spring (and occasionally in the fall).  Here are two recent photos of young Sea Palms, one with only two blades (center left), and another that's a bit larger (~2.5 cm high).

[If you're wondering, that's a chiton (Nuttallina californica) in the upper right corner.]

Fun to think about the connections among tall ships and Russians and Sea Palms!


Sarah Ann said...

Hooray Postelsia! I also found juveniles that had settled onto other algal species such as Callithamnion and Odonthalia. Thanks, Jackie!
-Sarah Ann

Megan said...

Thanks for the tall ship photos! Cool to see them underway!