Beautiful Browns


Do you know where in New Zealand to find Neptune’s necklace or rimurapa? Or how to tell apart Carpophyllum from Cystophora?

The answers will be found in a brand new electronic identification guide about New Zealand’s beautiful brown algae, or seaweed. Initially launched in 2012, a range of e-guides produced by NIWA’s Coasts and Oceans group have been developed to help amateur marine biologists identify the inspirational invertebrates and stunning seaweeds they find around them at the beach and in the water.

This first part of Stunning Seaweeds is a fully illustrated working e-guide to the most commonly encountered large seaweeds, the Beautiful Browns.

Each seaweed species page illustrates and describes features that enable you to differentiate the species from each other. Species are illustrated with high quality images of the plants in life. As far as possible, we have used characters that can be seen by eye or magnifying glass, and language that is non-technical.

Beautiful Browns is one in a series of e-guides available: Awesome Ascidians, Extraordinary Echinoderms, Splendid Sponges, and Coastal Crabs are all available for download now and more e-guides are currently being developed. NIWA says it will also be updating the existing e-guides online as new species are discovered and described.

You can download the e-guides for free at:

So delve into the forests of beautiful brown algae in our new e-guide and look out for Neptune’s necklace (Hormosira banksii (Turner) Decne.) on rocks or stones in the intertidal zone on beaches right around New Zealand and on our outlying islands. You will find bull kelp, or rimurapa (Durvillaea antarctica (Cham.) Har.) on rock in the low intertidal zone of exposed coasts around the Three Kings Islands in the north down to Stewart Island in the south, including Chatham, Bounty, Snares, Antipodes, Auckland and Campbell Islands.

As a bonus, if you are keen to identify brown algae at your local beach you can also contribute to our knowledge of this group by adding your observations to this awesome citizen science project on Naturewatch run by the scientists who wrote the guide:

Front cover of Beautiful Browns, a NIWA interactive guide to the large brown seaweeds of New Zealand.
Durvillaea chathamensis C.H.Hay. An endemic Chatham Island brown seaweed that can grow up to 1.5 m long. [Photo: Wendy Nelson, NIWA]
Lessonia variegata J.Agardh. A brown seaweed with long, strap-like blades with widely spaced teeth along its margin found around the North, South and Stewart Islands. [Photo: Roberta D’Archino, NIWA]
Splachnidium rugosum (L.) Grev., also commonly known as Dead man’s fingers and found in the intertidal zone on moderate to exposed coasts right around New Zealand, Stewart Island and in the Chatham Islands. [Photo: Erasmo Macaya, Universidad de Concepción, Chile]