Cornflake weed washed up on Belongil Beach yesterday didn’t stop Rachel Pearson, 17, from Melbourne, Hayley Reynolds, 7, from Sydney, and Carla Sojka, also 17, from Melbourne, from heading into the water for a swim.
Cornflake weed washed up on Belongil Beach yesterday didn’t stop Rachel Pearson, 17, from Melbourne, Hayley Reynolds, 7, from Sydney, and Carla Sojka, also 17, from Melbourne, from heading into the water for a swim. Cathy Adams

Beach weed a serial invader

YOU know it’s high summer when you go for a dip and come out covered in what looks like wet cereal.

Known as Colpomenia sinuosa, the more commonly named cornflake weed has invaded our beaches from Brunswick Heads to Evans Head, and beyond.

While the sticky film-like brown algae looks funny, makes you feel like you’re swimming in a soup and rots down to a stinky, slimy mess on the beach, there is really nothing wrong with this flora explosion.

Dr Claudia Catterall, from Southern Cross University’s School of Environmental Science, said the bubble-like weed grew on seagrass beds and rock in coastal estuaries as the water warmed.

With the arrival of strong north-east winds and increased wave chop those bubbles of algae are torn away and broken up into flake-like film which accumulates along beaches.

Some of these fragments settle to form new plants, but most of its reproduction is spread with spores.

As the algae breaks down it becomes food to bacteria and eventually to prawns, pippies and fish.

“It’s a healthy natural thing,” Dr Catterall said.

Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney said the weed sometimes harboured sea lice, but only because blue bottles tended to arrive on our shores during prolonged north-east winds, and their broken stingers became entrapped in the mass of weed.

Marine consultant Leon Zann, of Evans Head, said the weed, like other brown algae, had great potential as a garden fertiliser because of its ability to bio-concentrate trace elements.



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