Corallina officinalis, as its name indicates, is a calcified or calcareous seaweed that was used medicinally in times gone by (early as 2700 BC in China) as a vermifuge (how they ever found that out…).
Generally I find them fairly far out on the reefs of the East beach or Milsey Bay, tucked out of sight from the madding crowd and well away from areas populated by the big Fucus boys. Growing along the edges and on the rims of rock pools (they don’t like to stay dry for too long) they look like lacy cake decorations, their delicate pink fronds dusted with powdery icing sugar. In fact they are quite brittle to the touch due to the huge amount of calcium carbonate they produce to create their form and hold fast to their home; an effect that makes them virtually inedible to their fellow rock pool inmates, but provides an excellent habitat for tiny animals that live amongst their tufts. Indeed there is a prawn who has evolved his physique to look like a Coralline frond himself. They are one of the longest lived seaweeds (up to 50 years) and remarkably they were originally categorised as a species of coral, as they make up more than 50% of the ‘coral’ reefs of Hawaii, the Caribbean and North Atlantic.
Corallina officinalis, although somewhat out of fashion in the useful-to-have-in-your-medicine-chest supplies, is used in the modern cosmetic industry in a number of ways. Primarily as an additive to skin creams and lotions it is reputed to protect cellular DNA (by filtering out of harmful UV and infra-red radiation), and to improve skin cells’ respiration, so increasing its resilience.