University of Hawai`i

Botany Department

          Marine Algae of Hawai`i

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Laurencia nidifica 

J. Agardh 1852











 Click on image for larger photo 

Laurencia nidifica attached to a Porites lobata coral head.  Notice the filamentous epiphytes attached to the thalli.



Laurencia nidifica, or limu mane‘one‘o, is an indigenous Hawaiian species that is in direct competition with the more successful invasive
Acanthophora spicifera.














 Laurencia spp. on a limestone mound at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.






Firm, erect plant, to 10 cm tall, arising singly or in tufts from an entangled base. Terete axes are relatively thin, 0.5 - 1 mm in diameter, branching rarely more than 3 orders with the main divisions subdichotomous. Next orders are varied: alternate, opposite, or occasionally whorled. Branchlets are short, with blunt, indented tips.  Because of the high variation in color, branching pattern and texture, it is not simple to identify Laurencia species in the field.


Structural Features

Cortical cells subquadrate, walls not projecting; lenticular thickenings occasional, not in every section. Tetrasporangia of parallel type.



Laurencia nidifica is often found on reef flats and in lower intertidal habitats, 1 to 3 meters deep, attached to eroded coral or basalt rocks. Regularly found with Acanthophora spicifera, with which L. nidifica may even be entangled. Often found with epiphytic Hypnea musciformis or H. cervicornis attached to its upper branches.



Hawai‘i:  Laysan, O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i.

Mechanism of Introduction:  Indigenous to Hawai‘i.

Worldwide:  South Pacific and Indian Ocean.



Laurencia nidifica is a common shallow subtidal red alga that is often found in communities with Acanthophora spicifera, Hypnea musciformis and H. cervicornis. L. nidifica and A. spicifera are often found attached to one another or even entangled.  L. nidifica was recorded in Hawaii as early as 1863, leading to the belief that it is an indigenous species on Hawaiian reefs. The near proximity and greater biomass of the invasive, A. spicifera, to L. nidifica suggests that the invasive is competing with the indigenous L. nidifica for substrate and forcing it seaward into deeper waters. In a study of the distribution of these species, L. nidifica was the only species that increased in biomass when A. spicifera decreased in biomass.


Hypnea cervicornis was often found epiphytically attached to the upper branches of L. nidifica until the introduction of another invasive, H. musciformis. Since then, both Hypnea species are found attached to L. nidifica, with the more competitively successful H. musciformis more prevalent. The introduction of the two invasives, A. spicifera and H. musciformis, has changed the community structure of the shallow reef flat from L. nidifica with the epiphytic H. cervicornis attached, to the more aggressive A. spicifiera and the epiphytic H. musciformis.


This species is used as a condiment by Hawaiians because of its peppery taste.


Abbott, I.A., 1999. Marine Red Algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Abbott, I.A., 1996. Limu: An ethnobotancial study of some Hawaiian seaweeds. National Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai, Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, 4th edition.

McDermid, K.J. 1988. Community ecology of some intertidal subtropitcal algae, and the biology and taxonomy of Hawaiian Laurencia (Rhodophyta).
Ph. D. dissertation, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

McDermid, K.J., 1988. Laurencia from the Hawaiian Islands: key, annotated list, and distribution of the species. In I.A. Abbott, ed., Taxonomy of Economic Seaweeds, Vol. 2., pp. 231-245. California Sea Grant College Program, Report No. T-CSGCP-018.

Magruder, W.H. and JW. Hunt, 1979. Seaweeds of Hawai‘i. Oriental Publ. Co., Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Russell, D. J. and G. H. Balazs, 2000. Identification manual for dietary vegetation of the Hawaiian green turtle, Chelonia mydas. NOAA TM-NMFS-SWFSC-294. 49 pp.

Russell, D.J., 1992. The ecological invasion of Hawaiian reefs by two marine red algae, Acanthophora spicifera (Vahl) Boerg. and Hypnea musciformis (Wulfen) J.Ag., and their association with two native species, and Laurencia nidifica and Hypnea cervicornis. J.Ag. ICES Mar. Sci. Symp., 194: 110-125.

 Web Pages

Ecological Success of Alien/Invasive Algae in Hawai‘i:

Hawai‘i Coral Reef Network.

Virtual Herbarium.



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