Egregia menziesii

Endocladia muricata

Hesperophycus californicus

Pelvetiopsis limitata

Phyllospadix torreyi/P. scouleri

Postelsia palmaeformis

Silvetia compressa/S. deliquescens

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Phyllospadix scouleri Hook/P. torreyi Watson


General Description (from Kendall et al. 2002 and Mason 1957):

Surfgrass is an angiosperm with true leaves, stems, and rootstocks, not an alga. P. scouleri: leaves are characteristically flat and wide (2-4 mm); leaves arise from a congested rhizotomous base; flowers are basal or nearly basal on short peduncles (1-6 cm), and spadices are usually solitary.

P. torreyi: leaves are characteristically less than 2 mm wide and are generally more firm, cylindrical, and wiry than P. scouleri; leaves arise from a congested rhizotomous base; flowers on elongate peduncles (>1 dm long) and spadices several

Phyllospadix torreyi

Phyllospadix scouleri

Habitat and Range (from Kendall et al. 2002):

P. scouleri: found at or below zero tide level or in mid-low tide pools from Vancouver Island to southern California.

P. torreyi: found at or below zero tide level or in mid-low tide pools from northern California to Baja California; more likely to be found in sand-scoured areas than is P. scouleri.

Phyllospadix torreyi

Phyllospadix scouleri

Phyllospadix scouleri


Surfgrass habitat is highly productive, providing shelter for many invertebrates and supporting many species of algae (Stewart and Myers 1980). The red algae Smithora naiadum and Melobesia mediocris are exclusively epiphytic on sea grasses, such as surfgrass (Abbott and Hollenberg 1976). Surfgrass also provides nursery habitat for fishes and invertebrates, such as the California spiny lobster (Engle 1979). Phyllospadix is susceptible to desiccation and heat stress during low midday tides (Raimondi et al. 1999). It is also sensitive to sewage (Littler and Murray 1975) and oiling (Foster et al. 1998). If the rhizome systems remain viable, then recovery following disturbance can be fairly rapid; however, recovery is long if the entire bed is lost because recruitment is irregular (Turner 1983,1985) and restoration projects have been unsuccessful.


Abbott IA and Hollenberg GJ (1976) Marine algae of California. Stanford Univ Press, Stanford, CA

Engle JM (1979) Ecology and growth of juvenile California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus (Randall). Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Southern California

Foster MS, DeVogelaere AP, Harrold C, Pearse JS, Thum AB (1988) Causes of spatial and temporal patterns in rocky intertidal communities of Central and Northern California. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences Number 9, San Francisco, California

Kendall A, Kusic K, Maloney E, Williams M (2002) List of species to be discussed at the 2002 MMS Taxonomic Workshop

Littler MM and Murray SN (1975) Impact of sewage on the distribution, abundance, and community structure of rocky intertidal macro-organisms. Mar Biol 30: 277-91

Mason HL (1957) A flora of the marshes of California. Univ of Ca Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles

Raimondi PT, Ambrose RF, Engle JM, Murray SN, Wilson M (1999) Monitoring of rocky intertidal resources along the central and southern California mainland. 3-Year Report for San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Orange Counties (Fall 1995-Spring 1998). OCS Study, MMS 99-0032, U.S. Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, Pacific OCS Region

Stewart JG and Myers B (1980) Assemblages of algae and invertebrates in Southern California Phyllospadix-dominated intertidal habitats. Aquatic Botany 9:73-94

Turner T (1983) Complexity of early and middle successional stages in a rocky intertidal surfgrass community. Oecologia 60:56-65.

Turner T (1985) Stability of rocky intertidal surfgrass beds: persistence, preemption, and recovery. Ecology 66:83-92