Delesseria sanguinea

Fallen leafDelesseria or Sea Beech, I think is one of the most beautiful of the red seaweeds, linking the familiar shape of ancient woodland leaves with the glowing pinks of the undersea world. I am not alone as an admirer, and wandering through the internet found this poem in the 1846 book entitled “Ocean Flowers and Their Teachings”:

To the Oak Leaved Delesseria

Tell me, thou child of ocean,
With thy ensanguined fronds,
Nursed by the wave’s commotion,
And fixed by rooted bonds:

Why is such beauty lavish’d
In caves of ocean dark,
From human vision banish’d
Such texture fair to mark?

Say, do the sea-nymphs find thee,
Thy roseate leaves unfold,
And round their tresses bind thee,
As oaken wreaths of old?

Like roses here on earth
Do they thy beauty prize,
As flowers of Heavenly birth,
Emblems of brighter skies?

Short sighted mortal, shame thee!
Don’t think that beauty gleam
Where man alone must see it,
Or where he useful deems?

No brilliant hues are needed
To deck the sea-nymphs hair,
But beauty springs unheeded
Throughout creation fair.

Our God is love abounding
Has thus his mind display’d,
With beauty all surrounding
The Creatures he has made.

From the book Ocean Flowers and their teachings (1846) by Mary Matilda Howard

Delesseria sanguinea pressing

Delesseria sanguinea pressing

Delesseria sanguinea is found all along the coasts of Europe, from Spain to Norway, where the substrata allows accommodation in deep, shady pools of the lower (sublittoral) zone, often as an epiphyte of Laminaria. Growing up to 300mm long, it forms tender branches that spiral out form its cylindrical stipes bearing translucent crimson leaves (blades). It was once known as the ash-leafed seaweed, or ‘bloody dock’ and is often confused with the Sea Oak (Phycodrys rubens), another beautiful seaweed which is darker in coloration with leaves that resemble (as you would imagine) common oak (Quercus).

Like deciduous trees, the Delesseria loses it ‘leaves’ in the autumn (the soft membranous lamina) between the midribs to be replaced on female plants by small reproductive bodies which are fertilised by tiny spores in late autumn (October) and released in February

Named after either the French botanist, Paul Denjamin Deleser (1773 – 1847), or the geologist Achilles Ernest Delesse (1817 – 1881) – the sanguiniea coming from the Latin sanguis, meaning blood. Whether named due to its colour or its potential is unknown, but the little Delesseria sanguinea has immense potential as a candidate for pharmacological and pharmaceutical development. It was researched as a non-animal alternative to heparin, (used for its anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory and anti-metastic effects), and although weaker than heparin in its anticoagulation effect, it exhibited stronger anti-inflammatory and anti-metastic properties, and as an inhibitor of hyaluronidase would make it a candidate for development in cosmetic applications.

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St Abbs Visitor Centre


Seaweeds in GlassI was delighted to be asked to exhibit my seaweeds at the St Abbs Visitor Centre over the summer season from March to October this year.  The first installation has gone in, with some larger pieces to follow in coming months

Perched on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ancient harbour, the centre holds a commanding view of St Abbs Head and the jagged coastline that delineates the edge of the National Nature Reserve.  This reserve, stretching as far as the eye can see is home and sanctuary to 100’s of species of birds, sea and shore life.  It has witnessed an astonishing repopulation of seabed species due to a prohibition on trawler fishing and has gained an international reputation for superb diving.

JillWatson_StAbbsSurvivors2On the high bluff just outside the centre stands a beautiful memorial to the women and children survivors of the Eyemouth Disaster of 1890.  Created by sculptress Jill Watson, it keens the loss of life, love and livelihood scoured into the sea on that fateful day.

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