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DescriptionShort cylindrical stipe (exceptionally up to 75 cm) continuing as a distinct midrib throughout the length of the narrow, ribbon-like, slightly wavy blade. Attached to substrate by claw-like holdfast termed haptera. The blade is yellowish, olive-green or rich brown in colour, supple to the touch and very flexible. Blade length varies seasonally but is usually between 30 cm - 1.5 m (exceptionally 4 m) in length. Blade may be tattered and torn by wave action sometimes leaving only the midrib at which point it may be confused with Chorda filum. Older plants may have flat, finger-like sporophylls, each up to 10 cm in length, growing from the stipe at the base of the blade. The sporophylls bear reproductive bodies called sori. When fertile the sori form a typical H-shaped figure on the sporophylls.Other common names include wing kelp, honeyware, edible fucus, and bladder locks in England; dabberlocks and keys in Scotland; and murlins, ribini, and Cupog nag Cloc in Ireland (Guiry 2000). The species name Alaria esculenta literally means 'edible wings'. This species was originally described as Fucus esculentus Linnaeus, 1767. The class Phaeophyceae may alternatively be classified in the Phylum Heterokontophyta ( Hoek van den et al. 1995).
Alaria (Phaeophyceae, Alariaceae) is a common genus of kelps in the northern hemisphere. Fourteen species are currently recognised of which three (Alaria esculenta (L.) Greville, Alaria pylaii (Bory de Saint-Vincent) Greville, and Alaria grandifolia J. Agardh) are reported for the cold -temperate North Atlantic Ocean. Alaria esculenta, the type species described originally from the North Atlantic, exhibits a range of biogeographically correlated morphotypes suggesting the possibility of multiple specific or intraspecific entities or hybrids (Kraan pers. comm.; Kraan & Guiry 2000 in press). A key to the species of the genus Alaria is given by Widdowson (1971).