NOAA Photos

Marine plants include everything from undulating sea grass beds, to towering underwater kelp forests, to microscopic algae. Despite this diversity, most marine plants are humble in stature but play an extremely important role in marine ecosystems. Tiny algae, only visible when they multiply into large blooms, constitute the very base of the marine food web. Seaweeds are larger, multicellular algae (giant kelp and bull kelp being the largest examples) that also provide food and shelter for numerous marine species. Marine flowering plants, or seagrasses, such as eel grass or surf grass likewise harbor many marine animals.

Different types of marine plants thrive in different environments depending on their tolerance to waves, light, air, and grazing by predators. Many of the species of algae in Bay Area national parks, have adapted to high energy environments on the exposed coast through small size, while others have tough holdfasts and blades. Please see the Marine Ecosystems section of this site for more information about the unique plant and animal species found in each of these environments.