Meaning of SEAWEED in English


any of certain species of red, green, and brown marine algae that generally are anchored to the sea bottom or to some solid structure by rootlike holdfasts that perform the sole function of attachment and do not extract nutrients as do the roots of higher plants. The most conspicuous seaweeds are brown algae; mosslike carpets of red algae are seen at low tides. Seaweeds often form dense accumulations in shallow water. They show a well-established zonation along the margins of the seas, where the depth of the water is 50 m (about 165 feet) or less. The types of seaweed growing at the high-water mark, where plants are often exposed to air, differ from those growing at lower levels, where there is little exposure. Many seaweeds of such genera as Fucus, Macrocystis, Nereocystis, and Laminaria are widely distributed in colder waters because they cannot reproduce in temperatures above 18 C (64 F). Brown algae (q.v.) commonly found as seaweeds include kelp, gulfweed, and Fucus. Among the kelps are the largest algae; certain species of Macrocystis and Nereocystis of the Pacific and Antarctic regions exceed 33 m (100 feet) in length. Laminaria, another kelp, is abundant along the Pacific coasts and the British Isles. Gulfweed (/a>Sargassum; q.v.) is common as free-floating masses in the Gulf Stream and the Sargasso Sea. It is remarkable among seaweeds in its form, which resembles branches bearing leaves and berries. The berries are actually pneumatocysts, hollow, gas-filled floats that keep the fronds (leaflike blades) at the surface of the water. Fucus vesiculosis, common around the British Isles between high and low tides, also floats by means of pneumatocysts (see Fucus). Red algae (q.v.) commonly found as seaweeds include dulse, Gelidium, Chondrus, and laver. Dulse (q.v.), the common name for Rhodymenia palmata of the North Atlantic, consists of flat, solitary or tufted, purplish fronds, fan-shaped in general outline and divided into numerous segments that are often subdivided in a forked manner. Various species of Chondrus (see Irish moss) carpet the lower half of the zone exposed at low tide along rocky coasts of the Atlantic. In spring and summer Porphyra species (see laver) are abundant toward the high-water mark of the intertidal zone in the British Isles, Japan, and elsewhere. Ulva species, commonly called sea lettuce (q.v.), are among the relatively few green algae that occur as seaweed. Seaweed is of economic importance. Laver, dulse, gulfweed, and sea lettuce, for example, are used as food in various parts of the world, and brown algae are employed in fertilizers. Species of Gelidium are used to make the gelatin-like product agar.

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