Mastocarpus stellatus

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Chondrus crispus - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-034.jpg
A-D Chondrus crispus ; E-F Mastocarpus stellatus
Scientific classification edit
(unranked): Archaeplastida
Division: Rhodophyta
Class: Florideophyceae
Order: Gigartinales
Family: Phyllophoraceae
Genus: Mastocarpus
M. stellatus
Binomial name
Mastocarpus stellatus
(Stackhouse) Guiry

Gigartina stellata

Mastocarpus stellatus, also called Clúimhín Cait (cats' puff), carragheen, or false Irish moss, is a species of red algae closely related to Irish Moss, or Chondrus crispus. It is collected in Ireland and Scotland, together with Chondrus crispus as Irish moss, dried, and sold for cooking and as the basis for a drink reputed to ward off colds and flu.


It grows from a discoid holdfast stipe, the fronds are channelled unlike those of Chondrus crispus which are flat. It grows to a height of 10 to 20 cm and branches dichotomously. The frond is cartilaginous and reddish-brown in colour, showing a greenish or purplish tinge. The mature algae show reproductive structures which develop on erect filaments up to 1 mm in diameter, these make it readily distinguishable from Chondrus crispus. In colour it is reddish brown, purple or bleached.[1][2]


The plants are dioecious, that is the male and female grow as separate plants. The female plants show conspicuous pip-like papillae (small nipple-like outgrowths. The tetrasporic phase is an encrusting plant which produces spores in fours.[3]


It occurs commonly on rocks in the mid- and lower-intertidal.

Mastocarpus stellatus is able to coexist with C. crispus on the northern New England coast despite being a competitive inferior to C. crispus. A greater tolerance for freezing allows it to exist above C. crispus in northern environments where freezing stresses are significant. Mastocarpus is rarely found south of Cape Cod on the United States Atlantic coast because it is out competed by Chondrus when the freezing tolerances are lower.


Generally common on all coasts of Ireland and Britain, except perhaps for parts of the east of England - Lincoln, Norfolk and Suffolk.[4] Also recorded from: Iceland, Faeroes, North Russia to Rio de Oro, Canada (Newfoundland) to U.S. (North Carolina).[2]


  1. ^ Newton, L. 1931. A Handbook of the British Seaweeds. British Museum
  2. ^ a b Dixon, P.S. & M. Irvine. 1977. Seaweeds of the British Isles. Volume 1 Rhodophyta pt.1. British Museum (Natural History), London. ISBN 0 565 00781 5
  3. ^ Bunker, F.StP.D, Brodie, J.A., Maggs, C.A. and Bunker, A.R. 2017. Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland. Second Edition. Wild Nature Press, Plymouth, UK ISBN 978-0-9955673-3-7
  4. ^ Hardy, F.G. and Guiry, M.D. 2006. A Check-list and Atlas of the Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland.. The British Phycological Society. ISBN 3-906166-35-X

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