If you are ever swimming in the ocean or walking the shoreline, perhaps you have come across what you believe to be sea moss or a type of sea plant. But how do you properly identify what you find? Sea moss can look similar to other types of sea weeds or sea plants, but it does have its distinguishing factors.
With the rising popularity of sea moss as a valuable source of healing and nutrition, there has also been a lot of confusion concerning it identification, regions where it is found, terminology, and more. It can be a bit bewildering when researching sea moss because of all the misinformation surrounding this trendy treasure from the ocean.
In this article, we will delve a little deeper into the various distinguishing characteristics that make sea moss stand out from other plants in the ocean. The aim is to help you familiarize yourself with sea moss so that you can better identify it if you come across it in the future.
Furthermore, after reading this article you should be able to differentiate sea moss from other types of seaweeds and understand the differences between different species of sea moss. You will also learn how to cut through the incorrect and sometimes misleading terminology that is often used when discussing sea moss.
What Does Sea Moss Look Like?
There are many varieties of sea mosses, but the two that are most widely used are the Genus Gracilaria and Chondrus Crispus varieties. The former is more of a gold or yellow color. It has a fingered, stringy look to it. The latter is also commonly called “Irish sea moss.” It has flattened fan-like tops. It is purple in color.
Genus gracilaria sea moss tends to grow in warmer climates and grows year round. It can be grown on ropes, making it easier to farm. Chondrus crispus is often found in cooler climates. It cannot be farmed because it primarily grows on rocks. Although it can have a deep purple color, it may also look dark red.
What Does Sea Moss Smell Like?
Most who work with and use sea moss say that all sea mosses have an “ocean” smell. On occasion, some will describe it as having a “fishy” smell.
The smell depends on a variety of factors, so not all sea moss is going to smell the same. If you notice your sea moss having a bad or rancid smell, it could be because it has gone bad. It will taste bad if it has expired as well.
Is Sea Moss a Seaweed or a Sea Plant?
To put it simply, sea moss is a type of seaweed. The terms “seaweed” and “sea plant” can get confusing, but they don’t have to be. Keep in mind that technically, seaweed is a plant that comes from the sea, making it a sea plant.
There are many types of marine plants and seaweed is just one type. However, seaweed can be separated into many different species, with sea moss being one.
The next time someone uses “seaweed” or “sea plant” when talking about sea moss, just know that they can be used interchangeably.
Seaweed Vs Sea plant
Seaweed by definition refers thousands of different species of marine algae. The term “sea plant” is often used referring to any plant that can be found in the sea. These terms are used interchangeably.
Whether you call sea moss a seaweed or a sea plant, there is no considerable difference between the two terms. However, you may find that most people refer to sea moss as seaweed rather than a sea plant.
Sea Moss Vs Irish Moss
There is much confusion when it comes to sea moss Vs Irish moss. Irish moss is actually the purple sea moss species, Chondrus Crispus. This species got the name “Irish sea moss” because during the Irish Potato Famine in the 1800s, it was said to be an important food source.
You may notice that most people call the gold sea moss variety Irish moss as well, but this is technically inaccurate.
Chondrus crispus grows in cooler waters, so it can be found off the coast of Ireland. It can also be found in Great Britain, Canada, and Maine.
Another aspect of sea moss that causes confusion is the fact that the golden variety (Genus Gracilaria) doesn’t just come in gold or yellow colors. It can also be a purple color. Because Chondrus crispus is purple, people call purple varieties of Genus Graciliaria “Irish sea moss” when it is not. This is one reason why you should never look at color alone when trying to identify sea moss.
Try to keep in mind when you come across those who call Genus Graciliaria “Irish Sea Moss,” that most people do not intentionally do this to be misleading. They are simply relating a term that they have been taught when discussing this sea moss species.
For whatever reason, the term “Irish Sea Moss” has really stuck and is often used to denote different species of sea moss.
Difference between Seaweed and Sea moss
Sea moss is simply a type of seaweed. In addition to sea moss, other types of seaweed include kelp and planktonic algae. There is even another category of seaweed called sea grass that consists of species like Zostera Marina.
Other categories of seaweeds include green algae, red algae (sea moss is classified under this category of seaweed), and brown algae. Many types of seaweeds are consumed around the world.
The Different Species of Sea Moss
The two main species of sea moss, Genus gracilaria and Chondrus crispus have already been discussed. However, there are many other types of sea moss. Eucheuma Cottonii is another type of edible sea moss that is sold commercially. It comes in a wide range of colors and grows closer to the equator.
Eucheuma cottonii is sometimes referred to as “sea birds nest” sea moss. Like the other two popular sea moss species, this species is touted for its medicinal properties and rich nutrient content. It can be farmed in the open ocean on ropes like Genus graciliaria.
Chondrus Crispus vs Genus Graciliaria
There is much debate as to which type of sea moss is better when it comes to the two most popular species of sea moss. Both sea moss species are rich in nutrients and therapeutic properties. However, Chondrus crispus cannot be farmed while Genus Graciliaria can.
This means that you should do your research when purchasing Genus Graciliaria to avoid buying something that has been grown in a pool. Pool grown sea moss does not have the same nutrient content as sea moss grown in the open ocean.
There are ways to determine if you are getting pool grown, also called “fake” sea moss or the real thing. First, pool grown sea moss tends to be thicker. It is also saltier.
Antoher big distinguishing feature between ocean grown Vs pool grown Genus Graciliaria is the color. Wildcrafted Genus Graciliaria retains its natural color better, whereas the pool grown version tends to look washed out.
Chondrus crispus is often thought to have a slightly higher antioxidant content than Genus Graciliaria as well. The rich purple color lends to the antioxidants in the sea moss. However, when it comes down to nutrient content, both sea moss species bring a lot to the table.
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How to Differentiate Sea Moss from Other Sea Plants
Sea moss can be differentiated from other sea plants by the region it is found, whether it is found growing on rocks or the ocean floor, and a few other physical characteristics.
Below are some things to keep in mind when trying to identify sea plants:
- Sea mosses like Chondrus crispus tend to grow on rocks unlike many sea plants that grow on the ocean floor.
- Unlike many sea plants, sea mosses do not grow tall.
- Sea plants like bladderwrack can be distinguished by their small air bladders that cover the plant to help it float upward toward the surface. If you see any plants that have air bladders, they are probably bladderwrack.
- Many species of sea plants like kelp have large, lobed leaves that separated them from sea moss (sea moss does not have leaves).
- Sea grasses do not look like sea mosses at all. Most sea grasses tend to look like land grasses with their long thin appearance.
- Remember that Chondrus crispus sea moss is often purple to red in color and has a branched, fan-like appearance. It is found in cooler climates.
- Genus Graciliaria grows on rocks and is gold to yellow in color with a stringy, finger-like appearance. It is often found in warmer climates where it grows year round.
Sea moss is a type of seaweed that can be found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While it resembles other types of seaweed, sea moss has some unique properties that set it apart from other plants in the ocean. In this article, we were able to explore what makes sea moss different from other sea plants.