Macrocystis pyrifera

Habitat: Typically grows on rocky bottoms in temperate oceans.

Average adult size: Giant kelp can grow in water more than 100 feet deep.

Natural history: For a giant kelp to be healthy it likes water below 70 degrees. This is why kelp are not found in areas with coral reefs, where the water is much too warm. Kelp depends on sunlight to grow, and all parts of the kelp plant are capable of photosynthesis. Like any kind of forest the kelp forest is filled with life. Kelp forest researchers have counted more than 800 kinds of animals that feed, hide and live in the kelp. It is the fastest growing plant in the ocean; it can grow up to 2 feet per day. Under optimal conditions, giant kelp can grow to a length of more than 100 feet in little more than a year. Many people don't realize that kelp is harvested like wheat; a substance called algin is extracted and is used in lipstick, toothpaste and ice cream. You might be wearing kelp right now, since it is used in the dyes that color our clothes.

Range: Coastal North America, from central Baja to central California.

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