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Sargassum aquifolium

Sargassum aquifolium
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Clade: Diaphoretickes
Clade: SAR
Clade: Stramenopiles
Phylum: Gyrista
Subphylum: Ochrophytina
Class: Phaeophyceae
Order: Fucales
Family: Sargassaceae
Genus: Sargassum
S. aquifolium
Binomial name
Sargassum aquifolium

Formerly known as Sargassum echinocarpum, Sargassum aquifolium is an abundant brown algae of the order Fucales, class Phaeophyceae, genus Sargassum.[1] In Hawaii, it is commonly known as limu kala.[2] This alga is endemic to Hawaiʻi, one out of the four endemic species of Sargassum.[2]


Sargassum aquifolium can reach up to 30 centimeters with a flat main branch and wide, short, spiny leaves.[2] Size vary based on where they live, but S. aquifolium that live on reef flats are usually larger and more narrow.[2] Leaves range from 2.54–10.16 centimeters (1–4 inches) in length and 1.27 centimeters (0.5 inches) in width.[3] Leaves are golden-brown color with brown dots and a clear spine.[3] Edges of leaves are smooth or spiny with toothlike edges.[3] Sargassum aquifolium can float due to the pneumatocysts found on the leaves.[4]

Distribution and habitat

Sargassum aquifolium is endemic to the Hawaiian islands.[4] Sargassum aquifolium is the most common and largest species of Sargassum in Hawaii.[2] Sargassum aquifolium can be found growing year-round in subtidal ranges with rocky terrain and reef flats.[5] Sargassum aquifolium is common to wave-washed lava benches and can also be found in warm, calm tide pools with depths of more than 3 meters (10 feet).[5] This seaweed grows in habitats where waves are present and moderate and usually thrives in the North Pacific where winter swells come in.[5]

Human use

Leaves of Sargassum aquifolium are used as food.[3] The youngest leaves are picked and used because the older leaves are too tough to eat.[3] Leaves are washed and are soaked in fresh water overnight and can then be used in food.[3] It is usually chopped or ground up and combined with other seaweeds or cooked in soup.[3] Whole leaves are deep fried into chips.[3] Sargassum aquifolium is also eaten fresh at the beach with raw fish or octopus.[6] Sargassum aquifolium is also used for fish bait.[3]

Cultural significance

Limu kala was believed to be among many of its kind (limu, lit. 'seaweed') appearing in the first period of creation () as mentioned in the Kumulipo.[7]

It is often used in sacred ceremonies in Hawaiian culture.[4] A ceremony called Hoʻoponopono used the leaves of the seaweed to pray to the gods and ask for forgiveness if they had offended anyone in the circle.[8] This ceremony was usually done when a family was having problems and limu kala was used because it was associated with purification.[8] Another use Hawaiians had for the seaweed was when they were going fishing.[8] They would use the seaweed as bait for certain fishes.[8] It gained the named limu honu after people realized that turtles enjoyed eating the seaweed too.[8] S. aquifolium (limu kala) was also used in other healing and purifying ceremonies and adornment on hula dancers.[9] In July 2023, Hawaii's governor signed Act 230 legislation designating limu kala as the state's official limu.[10]


  1. ^ "WoRMS – World Register of Marine Species". Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  2. ^ a b c d e Abbott, Isabella A. (1988). Taxonomy of Economic Seaweeds. La Jolla, California: California Sea Grant College Program, University of California, La Jolla, California. pp. 65–71.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Abbott, Isabella Aiona (1984). Limu: an ethnobotanical study of some Hawaiian seaweeds (3rd ed.). Lawai, Kauai, Hawaii: Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden. ISBN 0-915809-13-3. OCLC 10981330.
  4. ^ a b c "Alga of the Month January-February 2020". University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa: Marine Option Program. 2020-02-05. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  5. ^ a b c Shunula, J.P. (1988). "Seasonal Growth And Reproduction of Two Species of Sargassum at Pange Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania" (PDF).
  6. ^ Fortner, Heather J. (1978). The Limu Eater: A Cookbook of Hawaiian Seaweed. p. 23.
  7. ^ Beckwith, Martha Warren (1951). The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant (1981 paperback ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-8248-0771-5.
  8. ^ a b c d e Huisman, John M. (2007). Hawaiian reef plants. Isabella Aiona Abbott, Celia Marie Smith, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Sea Grant College Program. Honolulu, Hawaiʻi: University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program. ISBN 1-929054-04-1. OCLC 123040861.
  9. ^ McDermid, Karla J.; Martin, Keelee J.; Haws, Maria C. (2019-10-01). "Seaweed resources of the Hawaiian Islands". Botanica Marina. 62 (5): 443–462. doi:10.1515/bot-2018-0091. ISSN 1437-4323.
  10. ^ "Gov. Green enacts laws to protect beaches, shorelines and public land". Maui Now. 2023-07-07. Retrieved 2024-02-17.
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Sargassum aquifolium
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