Common eelgrass

Common eelgrass

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Scientific name: Zostera marina
This seagrass species is a kind of flowering plant that lives beneath the sea, providing an important habitat for many rare and wonderful species.

Top facts


Leaf: Usually 20-50cm long

Conservation status

Seagrass beds are Priority Habitat under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and a Feature of Conservation Importance for which Marine Conservation Zones can be designated. They are on the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats (declining in Region II – North Sea and Region III – Celtic Sea, and threatened in Region V – Wider Atlantic).

When to see

January to December


Common eelgrass is a plant species (not a seaweed) that lives on the very low shore down to 10m deep and can form dense seagrass meadows. These meadows form important underwater habitats in shallow seas, providing shelter for many species, including seahorses and pipefish. They also provide important nursery habitats for small fish, cuttlefish, shellfish and rays. Seagrass beds grow on sandy seabeds in very shallow waters - as they need good levels of light to photosynthesise. They grow in sheltered areas, such as estuaries, bays and inlets. Seagrass is an important food source for many overwintering birds such as geese. Common Eelgrass gets its name from its long, eel-like leaves.

What to look for

Unmistakeable - an underwater grass-like plant, with long thin green leaves. Sometimes found washed ashore after storms.

Where to find

A wide but patchy distribution around the UK.

Did you know?

Seagrass is one of very few true plants that live in the sea. (Seaweed is a type of algae, not a plant!) eelgrass is a flowering plant - producing numerous flowers and ultimately producing seeds. They also have a Rhizome - a type of underground root system that allows new plants to grow vegetatively.