Gutweed Chloro­phyta

(Ulva in­testi­nalis)

Country Life Every Week - - Kitchen Garden Cook Radicchio -

A sea­weed of the up­per shore, gutweed is able to tol­er­ate very low salin­i­ties. Both com­mon and Latin names come from the fronds, which are, in fact, tiny tubes. These in­flate with the oxy­gen of pho­to­syn­the­sis and float in rock pools like curled in­testines. It’s a rather boor­ish sea­weed, fast-grow­ing un­der nor­mal con­di­tions; its growth be­comes over­whelm­ing when the sea is pol­luted with ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rous com­pounds. At Sandy Bay in south Devon, some years ago, I dis­cov­ered that its mile of very wide sandy beach had dis­ap­peared com­pletely be­neath an 8in layer of this sea­weed. The coun­cil had be­gun bull­doz­ing it into sev­eral sea­weed moun­tains, which pro­duced no-go ar­eas on the beach be­cause of the im­pres­sive (and lethal) smell of hy­dro­gen sul­phide. Ac­tu­ally, there is an­other, nicer, smell associated with Ulva species—that of truf­fle. The chem­i­cal com­mon to both is dimethyl sul­phide. It is of critical im­por­tance for reg­u­lat­ing cli­mate by con­trol­ling cloud for­ma­tion and most of it comes from sea­weeds.

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