Exploring Eel-grass

Eel-grass | Zostera marina
Eel-grass | Zostera marina

With the excellent low tides this week I was able to get out and do some poking around in the eel-grass beds at Miracle Beach Provincial Park. Patience and careful walking are required attributes for tide pool exploration, as well as a sharp eye for movement and small creatures. Slow wading serves to reduce the impact on the creatures living in the pools and helps you to spot them before they scurry to cover beneath the eel-grass.

Eel-grass (Zostera marina) is a flowering grass and reproduces by both surface pollination and submarine pollination. Rhizomes anchor the grass in the sand. Eel-grass provides valuable habitat and food source for many marine animals and birds. Herring spawn on the blades of the grass. Brant geese use eel-grass as fuel for their long migration up and down the west coast of North America. First Nations people ate the rhizomes fresh or dried.

If you look a little closer at the eel-grass as you wade through it you’re sure to discover lots of different creatures. Several species of crabs and many fish were lurking under the cover of the eel-grass. The coolest find of the day were several small Proliferating Anemones (Epiactis prolifera) – see photos below. Note the young anemones budding off of the parent anemone!

  • Eel-grass (Zostera marina)
  • Proliferating anemone (Epiactris prolifera)
  • Proliferating anemone (Epiactris prolifera)
  • Proliferating_anemone (Epiactris prolifera)


  1. Not a comment but a question. Does any variety of Zostera grow in fresh water, I am trying to identify a Zostera like grass growing in a fresh water lake in Northern Ireland. This lake has been fresh water since 1955 when as an arm of a marine estuary it was cut off from the sea by a flood prevention dam. No salt water has been able to reach this far inland since the construction of the dam. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

  2. Hello Ian,
    I’m not sure which spieces of Zostera occur in Ireland and whether or not there is a freshwater species of aquatic grass that looks similar to eel grass. This might be a good question to pose to the folks at UBC’s Botanical Forums – lots of international participants in that group.

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