Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Phycologists consider seaweed to refer any of a large number of marine benthic algae that are multicellular, macrothallic (large-bodied), and thus differentiated from most algae that tend towards microscopic size (Smith, 1944). Seaweeds are found among the green, red, and brown algae. Some cyanobacteria may also be counted as seaweeds. Seaweeds are named after terrestrial "weeds", and are not to be confused with things like seagrass which are vascular plants and not algae.
- thallus: the algal body
- blade: a flattened structure that is somewhat leaf-like
- stipe: a stem-like structure, may be absent
- holdfast: specialized basal structure providing attachment to the bottom
The stipe and front are collectively known as frond.
Seaweeds are used extensively as food by coastal peoples, most particularly in Japan but also in Korea, in Peru and in the Canadian Maritimes. For example, nori is a dried red alga, formed into sheets, and used to wrap sushi. Irish moss is another red alga used in producing various food additives. Other seaweeds may be used as seaweed fertiliser.
Seaweed is used traditionally in the Welsh diet and still eaten widely across Wales in the form of 'laverbread'. Laverbread is made from the same seaweed as nori. The seaweed is boiled for several hours: the gelatinous paste that results is then rolled in oatmeal and fried. Laverbread is traditionally eaten fried with bacon and cockles for breakfast. Swansea market has several stalls selling only cockles and laverbread from the nearby Gower peninsular. The Welsh word for seaweed is 'gwynon'.
Seaweed is also used for the production of Alginate, a versatile product that is used for a whole range of applications. These include the production of Agar which is used very widely in microbiology as a substrate for culturing organisms. Alginates are also used in the prudction of foodstuffs to improve texture and mouth-feel. Typical products are ice-cream and a range of proprietary desserts (see Carrageenan).
- Smith, G.M. 1944. Marine Algae of the Monterey Peninsula, California. Stanford Univ., 2nd Edition.
- The Seaweed Site, information on all aspects of seaweeds and marine algal biology
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