by Sam Weinstock

Bull Kelp

Bull kelp is a fascinating giant brown colored alga. It lives in the sea and if there is enough wave action it can grow up to 3 feet in a day. Typically bull kelp grows up to about 115 feet in length, but they have the potential to grow up to about 300 feet. Like other algae, bull kelp converts energy from sunlight and takes its nutrients from the surrounding water. The range where they live on the Pacific coast is from Alaska to southern California. The best known species is the giant kelp, and it is in the family known as Lessoniacea.

One thing that people have found is that bull kelp is a great source of algin, a natural thickener used in paint, beer, ice cream, etc. People harvest kelp for these products, but of course they have to be careful and limit their harvesting so that they don’t damage the kelp ecosystem. Another place where the kelp proved useful was with the Indians. They discovered that the bulb of the kelp was hollow and used it for carrying water, then they dried the stems over a fire and used them for fishing line. Later the pioneers found that it tasted good and started to pickle it; it is still used today for this purpose. The nutritional value of kelp is high. It is high in protein, iron and calcium.

Sea otters use bull kelp to anchor themselves and the blades of it have been found to provide a good hard surface for mussels and Bryozoans to attach to. While snails, crabs, shrimp, starfish, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, sea squirts and many other animals use it as shelter, Also urchins, chitons, and limpets all eat bull kelp.

The bulbous float at the end is filled with gas containing carbon monoxide. Rafts of beached kelp help reduce beach erosion. Kelp forests help soften the force of waves. Bull kelp has three different parts: the bulb, the stipe, and the holdfast.

Apart from using kelp for factory-made products, people have also found kelp as a source of entertainment. Some of my fellow classmates have found playing kelp like a trumpet, quite a blast. Also, my aunt takes bull kelp, dries it and uses it like shaker.