A lesser known aspect of social and scientific Victorian history is the fashionable pursuit amongst women of beachcombing for seaweed found washed up after storms. The 150-year-old archival collection by Margaret Gatty at St. Andrew’s University, within which Flustra Foliacea can be found, serves as testimony to the bryozoan’s tremendous durability.
Often mistaken for a seaweed or coral, Flustra Foliacea is a colonial species of bryozoan found in the north of the Atlantic Ocean. The life of the colony begins with a single individual settling onto an immobile substrate, and after a little growth reproducing asexually by budding. Individual fronds may grow to around 20cm in length with strong tides causing the fronds to lengthen.