• Where does kelp come from?
Kelp is a special type of underwater plant, called algae. There are three kinds of algae: red, green and brown. Giant kelp is a brown algae. Giant kelp is the tallest of all the underwater plants. Giant kelp does not grow from seeds. Giant kelp grows from tiny cells, called spores. (Ferns are land plants that also grow from spores and not seeds.) Each giant kelp plant can release 70 trillion spores every year! These spores grow tiny plants that you can only see with a microscope. These tiny plants release male and female cells, called gametes. Together each male and female gamete make a tiny zygote. This zygote is the start of a live giant kelp plant. The zygote grows into a giant kelp plant.
• Does giant kelp really grow to be about 200 feet long?
Yes. That is why it is called giant kelp.
• How long does giant kelp live?
Giant kelp usually lives about 9-10 years.
• How big are giant kelp forests?
Kelp forests can be big or small. Small kelp forests can be just a small patch of kelp plants. Big kelp forests can stretch for miles along a coast, like the kelp forests we have along the coast of California. Kelp forests cannot get as big as land forests. Kelp plants can only grow in cold ocean water that is not too deep and has lots of nutrients. Kelp plants only grow around a few islands and along a few coasts in the world.
• Why is giant kelp in food?
The giant kelp in food is called algin. Algin is a special substance that comes from giant kelp plants. Algin is also called alginate. Algin makes things thick and gooey. If the people that make the food think their food is too runny, they will put algin in it to make it thicker. Many things are made with kelp (algin or alginate), like cake icing, ice cream, chocolate milk, frozen foods, juice drinks, toppings, salad dressings, pet foods, toothpaste, milk shakes, cleaners and polishes, carpet dyes, paper coatings, fertilizers, paper coatings, and even in the food zoos feed lions. The next time you go to the grocery store read the ingredients on different foods and see if you can find the word algin or alginate.