Algae, Pacific Northwest
Also known as bullwhip kelp or ribbon kelp. Bull kelp can grow to amazing lengths with some stalks reaching up to 25 meters and the ribbons reaching a further 4 meters. The bulbs can get to 15 cm around. They can be found growing from Alaska to California and they grow profusely on all parts of Vancouver Island.
This kelp forms large forests along the shores of BC that are used by ocean creatures like sea snails to otters, seals and sea Lions as a place to hunt or hide while searching for food. Sea Otters will wrap the kelp around themselves at night, when they sleep. This will keep them from drifting.
The kelp is an annual plant that dies off in winter and the winter storms wash the remnants to shore, the wise gardener will gather this up and take it home to nourish their gardens with all the nutrients and minerals that are stored in the plant.
The plant washes up on the shore and becomes food for many small creatures and the kelp drift will sink and the kelp crabs and sea urchins will feed on this. It also provides food and shelter for a variety of organisms.
Bull kelp has over the years been harvested commercially for both fresh and dried produce for human consumption as well as used to create fertilizers.