The ocean is filled with many undiscovered plants and unexplored areas that are mysterious and vast. There are however, many plants that have been discovered and vary in habitat. Some are free-floating varieties while others take root to sea floors and tidal bottoms. Many of these plants also provide food and shelter for marine life, playing a crucial role in the ocean's cycle of life.
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Eelgrass (Zostera Marina) is a blooming underwater grass that bears long, grasslike green leaves that emerge from their creeping stems. Eelgrass grows up to 3 feet long and thrives in muddy and sandy ocean bottoms. It provides a haven for wildlife like salmon, scallops and crabs, and plays an important role in erosion, as it cushions the impact of waves and currents, and weaves sediments in place. Eelgrass also provides food for many invertebrates like clams, worms and brittle stars. It's found growing in shallow bays, as well as tidal creeks and ocean coves.
Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) is the fastest growing type of seaweed in the world. It has a rapid growth rate of 2 feet per day with a maximum height of 200 feet in ocean waters. The base of bull kelp or "holdfast" attaches to rocks and can grow up to 16 inches wide. The bulbous end is filled with carbon monoxide to allow the kelp to float in the ocean. Bull kelp growth occurs in spring to fall and by winter it dies down. It is found growing in subtidal zones as well as along rocky shores, where it provides a resting spot for heron, otters and shorebirds. Underwater bull kelp forests appear and shelter marine creatures like crabs, sea anemones, snails and shrimp. They too provide a source of erosion control with the underwater kelp forests softening the waves before they make it to shore.
Seagrass (Halophila johnsonii) is a long-bladed grass that takes root on the sea floor. They bear slender blades that present themselves in pairs to grow up to 1 inch long. Versatile seagrass tolerates a wide range of saline conditions as well as ocean temperatures. It thrives in coastal lagoons and intertidal zones and is found growing in turbid water with high tidal currents. A major role of seagrass is to provides habit for marine wildlife like sea turtles, as well as to provide food for sea creatures. Varieties of seagrass such as Johnson's are on the endangered list with conservation methods in progress.
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