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For the color known in Greek as porphyra, see Tyrian purple.
Not to be confused with Porphyria.

Porphyra is a coldwater seaweed that grows in cold, shallow seawater. More specifically, it is a foliose red algal genus of laver, comprising approximately 70 species.[1] It grows in the intertidal zone, typically between the upper intertidal zone and the splash zone in cold waters of temperate oceans. In East Asia, it is used to produce the sea vegetable products nori (in Japan) and gim (in Korea). There are considered to be 60 to 70 species of Porphyra worldwide[2] and seven in the British Isles.[3]

Life cycle[edit]

Porphyra displays a heteromorphic alternation of generations.[4] The thallus we see is the haploid generation; it can reproduce asexually by forming spores which grow to replicate the original thallus. It can also reproduce sexually. Both male and female gametes are formed on the one thallus. The female gametes while still on the thallus are fertilized by the released male gametes, which are non-motile. The fertilized, now diploid, carposporangia after mitosis produce spores (carpospores) which settle, then bore into shells, germinate and form a filamentous stage. This stage was originally thought to be a different species of alga, and was referred to as Conchocelis rosea. That Conchocelis was the diploid stage of Porphyra was discovered by the British phycologist Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker in 1949 for the European species Porphyra umbilicalis.[5] It was later shown for species from other regions as well.[1][6]


Most human cultures with access to Porphyra use it as a food or somehow in the diet, making it perhaps the most domesticated of the marine algae,[7] known as laver, nori (Japanese), amanori (Japanese),[8] zakai, gim (Korean),[8] zicai (Chinese),[8] karengo, sloke or slukos.[2] The marine red alga Porphyra has been cultivated extensively in many Asian countries as an edible seaweed used to wrap the rice and fish that compose the Japanese food sushi, and the Korean food gimbap. In Japan, the annual production of Porphyra spp. is valued at 100 billion yen (US$1 billion).[9]


Many species previously included in the genus Porphyra has transferred to Pyropia, for example Pyropia tenera and Pyropia yezoensis.[11]


  1. ^ a b Brodie, J.A. and Irvine, L.M. 2003. Seaweeds of the British Isles. Volume 1 Part 3b. The Natural History Museum, London.ISBN 1 898298 87 4
  2. ^ a b Kain, J.M. 1991. Cultivation of attached seaweeds. in Guiry, M.D. and Blunden, G. 1992. Seaweed Resources in Europe: Uses and Potential. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester ISBN 0-471-92947-6
  3. ^ Hardy, F.G. and Guiry, M.D. 2006. A Check-list and Atlas of the Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland. British Phycological Society, London. ISBN 3-906166-35-X
  4. ^ Porphyra life cycle
  5. ^ Drew, Kathleen M. (1949). "Conchocelis-phase in the life-history of Porphyra umbilicalis (L.) Kütz". Nature 164 (4174): 748–749. doi:10.1038/164748a0. 
  6. ^ Thomas, D. 2002. Seaweeds. The Natural History Museum, London. ISBN 0-565-09175-1
  7. ^ Mumford, T.F. and Miura, A. 4.Porphyra as food: cultivation and economics. in Lembi, C.A. and Waaland, J.R. 1988. Algae and Human Affairs. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-32115-8
  8. ^ a b c Abbott, Isabella A (1989). Lembi, Carole A.; Waaland, J. Robert, eds. Algae and human affairs (Food and food products from seaweeds). Cambridge University Press, Phycological Society of America. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-521-32115-0. 
  9. ^ Aoki, Y. and Kamei, Y. 2006 Preparation of recombinant polysaccharide-degrading enzymes from the marine bacterium, Pseudomonas sp. ND137 for the production of protoplasts of Porphyra yezoensis Eur. J. Phycol. 41: 321-328.
  10. ^ Morton, O. 1994. Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum, Belfast. ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  11. ^ Sutherland et al.. "A NEW LOOK AT AN ANCIENT ORDER: GENERIC REVISION OF THE BANGIALES (RHODOPHYTA)". J. Phycol. 47 (5): 1131–1151. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8817.2011.01052.x. 


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