Plant of the Month — December 2005
Ecklonia radiata (C.Agardh) J.Agardh
December’s Plant of the Month is one with a difference. This brown kelp is abundant and widespread along the southern Australian coastline, reaching north to Kalbarri in Western Australia. It is likely to be seen mostly by those who dive, snorkel or swim, but it can also be found in inter-tidal rock pools and is therefore an appropriate ‘plant’ for Christmas holidays and all those who explore our coast and its waters.
Ecklonia radiata is a very successful species, growing in both shallow and deep waters, and may be the most abundant macroalga in Australia. In deep waters these plants generally have a long stipe (stem), smooth fronds and may be as long as 2m; plants growing in shallow water have a short stipe, are much smaller and are covered in spines. The species attaches itself to rocks by what is known as a single ‘holdfast’.
As with most plant species, it too has a problem with invasive weeds. The one that threatens Ecklonia radiata is a kelp native to Japan, China and Korea known as Undaria pinnatifida. It finds its way to Western Australian waters by hitching a ride on ocean currents or ships. The bad news is that once established, it could take over, causing serious harm to our marine environment.
We need to be ever vigilant and realise that weeds do not just invade the land, but also our marine environment. Taking immediate action once a marine weed is found can hopefully keep Western Australian waters free of plants that could destroy our local ecosystems.
Photo: J.M. Huisman
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