Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 17, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:
SEA PALMS

At Harris Beach State Park several remarkable kelp organisms were washed onto the beach, a colony shown below:

Sea Palms, POSTELSIA PALMAEFORMIS

These are Sea Palms, POSTELSIA PALMAEFORMIS, a kind of kelp, which means that Sea Palms are a brown alga. Among the algae Sea Palms are fairly unique, being the only species in their genus, and also one of few algae able to stand erect out of water. In fact, occupying the middle to upper intertidal zone, Sea Palms spend most of their lives out of water, standing erect on barnacle- or mussel-covered rocks submerged only when the tide is up.

The Sea Palms washed onto the beach were still "rooted" in rock-hard clusters of barnacles so it looked like someone with a hatchet or similar tool had hacked them off rocks. Later I learned that many people eat Sea Palms, raw or in Chinese dishes, so maybe someone had been harvesting them. It's illegal to harvest Sea Palms unless you have a commercial permit. It's estimated that in 2000 and 2001, two to three tons of Sea Palms were harvested commercially in California.

Sea Palms are distributed from Vancouver Island in the north to coastal south-central California. Wikipedia provides an especially informational page on them, including pictures of little forests of them standing erect like little palm trees on rocks at low tide, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postelsia.