by Kaitlin Burek
“I spy, with my little eye, something that is green” is a difficult prompt at the best of times but is especially difficult on St. Patrick’s Day. If asked, my guesses would be:
1.The dog bed in my living room
2.The apples in my fruit bowl
3.The green algae in my vase of tulips
In fact, green algae (Chlorophyta) would almost always be one of my guesses as you can “spy it” everywhere: lakes, rivers, ponds, oceans, soils, snow, lichens. The diversity in habitats lends itself to a wide diversity of green algae species. Estimates suggest there are between than 7,000-10,000 species worldwide making green algae the most diverse of the algal groups (catch up on Rhodophyta/red algae and Phaeophyta/brown algae)!
Check out some examples of green algae species below.
Oyster Thief (Codium fragile)
Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
Mermaid’s Tresses (Spirogyra)
All photo credits: Kaitlin Burek
Although green algae can be a nuisance to some – coating docks, clogging filters, stinking-up shorelines, creating blooms – it should be celebrated by all. Green algae serves as a vital food source for many aquatic organisms (e.g., snails, turtles) and creates a lot of the oxygen we breathe.
Not only that, it also serves as a great St. Patrick’s Day challenge:
“I spy, with my little eye, green algae”