Plant of the day: surfgrass

Tufts of surfgrass grow in the sandy channel between tidepools. With their long leaves waving gracefully, they look like a mop of green tossed in the water; the hair of a submerged mermaid. There are two species of surfgrass in California; the flat leaves of Phyllospadix scouleri (pictured here) are 2-4mm wide, while its cousin P. torreyi has round, wiry leaves that are only about 2mm wide.

These plants serve as a nursery and general home for many species of fish, invertebrates and algae. Native Americans would eat the rhizome–and occasionally the leaf, which was preferred when it had herring eggs on it. The dried leaves were used in basketmaking.

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