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Laver (Porphyra spp)

Laver (Porphyra spp)

This red alga is collected and eaten in south wales as Laverbread, where it is fried often with bacon. It is a highly nutritious species. Most of the time, however, it looks quite unpalatable. The expanded frond is just a few cells thick and forms a membrane over the rocks where it grows attached by a narrow point. It can develop lobes and can quickly cover large areas. It is a dark purplish colour when young but may be bleached by strong sunlight becoming greenish. Often present early in the year. It can develop almost anywhere on the shore, especially near sand. It is common and widely distributed. Several species occur whilst P. umbilicalis is the most likely seen species.

P. umbilicalis is an alga that works best at low temperature, hence it is common early in the year. It dries out at low tide but recovers very fast when the tide returns. Porphyra species are early colonisers of rock surfaces but show no particular zoning on the shore. Those high up on south-facing exposed shores in August will tolerate daily extremes of temperature. Mainly purple, they can change the pigments in the cells to suit the position on the shore. This is called chromatic adaptation and allows the alga to absorb a wide range of the visible spectrum.

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