Sea Anemones Go to War… Harris Beach State Park

It’s the first day of spring here in the Applegate River Valley, and behaving like it. I watched two male flickers (woodpeckers) strutting their stuff this morning for a female while she studiously ignored them by pecking at the ground. One very pregnant doe was busy chasing off her twins from last year. She’ll soon have a new fawn— or fawns— to take care of. And, the swallows have arrived back in our neighborhood. Their aerial performances are truly amazing. Before long, they will start checking out our oak trees and bird houses for possible nesting sites. 

The first of our daffodils have burst into bright yellow blooms, shooting stars are covering the hillsides, and irises are popping up everywhere. Peggy and her sister Jane dug up our iris bed last year to separate the bulbs that were crowding each other out. Peggy discovered that there were more than she could possibly plant, so she started stuffing the extras into gopher holes and covering them— like you might sweep dirt under a rug. Well, that’s what I thought. The gophers will have a feast. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each hole is now proudly sporting its own iris and Peggy is giving me an “I told you so” look.

And what else happened this morning? There was snow, rain and sunshine. Sometimes simultaneously. Spring has arrived for sure.

Meanwhile, I have a nasty cold. “We don’t likes it,” as Gollum of Hobbit fame would say. I have a box of Kleenex on one side and a paper bag on the other. I feel like I am an essential part of an assembly line for creating dirty tissues. Pull a Kleenex out of the box, sneeze into it, and stuff it in the bag. Repeat. I filled two bags yesterday. I’d be worried in this age of Covid, but my sniffer is working fine, I don’t have a fever, and Peggy and I had our second dose of Moderna in February. 

I was totally out of it yesterday and the day before. Instead of writing, I read a 400-page fantasy novel about a reluctant hero, a kick-ass princess, a unicorn without a horn, and a dragon that collected butterflies instead of virgins and gold. It was just what the doctor ordered. I’m almost human today, which is why I am back to blogging. Today I am returning to the tide pools of Harris Beach for a look at sea anemones.

The sea anemones at Harris Beach come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This was one of the larger ones we found, a giant, green sea anemone or Anthopleura xanthogrammica, if you want to be scientifically correct.
A more typical view. The tentacles are covered in stinging cells that the anemone throws into small prey like a harpoon. Once the poison has done its job, the anemone then uses its tentacles to work its prey into the gaping mouth seen in the center. When the feast is over it jets the leftovers out its mouth that has conveniently become an anus. I wonder if the anemone then gargles with sea water. The anemones stinging cells are more or less harmless to humans. How do I know this? I petted a few in my youth. The anemones don’t seem to like it; they immediately close up shop, like the anemones below.
A few of the big guys hanging out together at low tide. Anemones close up when exposed to air as a way to protect their tentacles. A small, dark fish is lurking in the remaining water. Some small fish seem to have a symbiotic relationship with anemones and swim among the tentacles, free of worry. Predators beware.
I found this interesting. A number to the anemones were covered in brightly colored pieces of rocks and shells. Scientists speculate that this serves as a natural sunblock when the anemone is exposed to air at low tide. I was curious about how they go about gathering and affixing their collection but couldn’t find anything about it.
Some smaller sea anemones live in colonies as seen here. These are clones of each other except they differentiate into scouts, warriors and moms. When two colonies meet, they go to war. It’s the scouts job to find new territory for the colony as it expands. When they come on another colony, the warriors take over by whaling away at each other with their tentacles. The ‘moms’ stay in the middle out of harm’s way. Next Friday, I’ll cover the other sealife we found in the tide pools.


Monday’s Blog-a-Book Post… “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me”: I move outside to commune with nature in the summer but the ghosts continue to haunt our backyard. I hire the family pets for protection. They charge a high fee.

24 thoughts on “Sea Anemones Go to War… Harris Beach State Park

  1. I have found in the past that the sea and her creatures are great healers. I can feel my blood pressure lowering and being peaceful just by watching the waves.
    Thanks for showing us the creatures that helped you!

    • I’m with you on the healing property of the ocean, G. A walk along the beach is always a delight. I also enjoy parking on an overlook, putting the windows down, and working while I listen to the waves roll in. 🙂 Thanks. –Curt

  2. Hi, almost human Curt! 😀 I hope you’re fully well now and phew, glad you’ve had both jabs so early so no other worries than normal horrid cold! Ahh … your descriptions of Spring are captivating and I felt was watching a Disney movie in technicolour. So beautiful and good for Peggy for rescuing and replanting the bulbs! Ha! I’m glad they all survived and are now a carpet of flowers.

    Wow! The facts about anemones are astonishing – I don’t think I’d ever wish to stroke one though. I love the decorated one … maybe preparing for a party?! 😂

    • Thanks, Hillary.
      Now, Peggy has the cold, of course! And we were careful. I have remnants but feel like a hike today. Things are looking up! 🙂
      I think the bulbs actually encouraged the gophers to go elsewhere. Maybe we stumbled onto something…
      I was fascinated with the ‘decorated’ anemone. All of its clones were similarly dressed. –Curt

  3. Anemones are cool. I’ve only ever seen those green ones in very shallow water. I think they have a symbiotic relationship with algae – maybe that’s why they’re green.

    Who’d have thought we’d be happier to have just a garden variety cold? We’re still in extra careful mode up here – just missed the cutoff for COVID shots. Oh well, one of these days…

    • Interesting on the algae, Dave. I think you are right. The photosynthesis that algae bring to certain tide pool residents enables them to harvest sunlight like plants.
      We are still being careful as well. We received our shots under the “old” category. Nice to know there are some benefits that come with the classification. 🙂 –Curt

  4. The clown fish is one of the creatures that are immune to the anemone toxins and in fact have formed a symbiotic relationship with it. It allows the clown fish to clean its tentacles while at the same tome offer safety to the clown fish from predators.
    The covid vaccine is now available to those over 80 but Australia is as good as clear from covid so I am in no hurry to receive it.

    • Thanks for the extra information, Gerard. As for Covid, most developed countries did a much better job of dealing with Covid than the US did. To say the least. 🙂 We are finally beginning to make some headway. –Curt

  5. You have (or had) a cold, and down here the oak and pine pollen finally has set in. I know exactly why I’m sneezing, and why my eyes are watering. I think the trees are trying to make up for time lost to the freeze. Thank goodness I can get by with one or two Benadryl when it’s worst.

    I was trying to figure out how both a flower and a sea creature got named ‘anemone.’ It’s the internet for the win. The flower’s name came first, and the sea creatures were named after them because of their marvelous colors. I suppose that ocean currents stirring the tentacles and such look rather like wind blowing the flowers: the word itself means ‘wind-flower.’

    I was really taken with your fourth photo, showing the anemone covered with bits of this and that. I’ve been looking and looking for the old-fashioned candies that looked like actual pebbles: veined and colored like actual rocks. I haven’t found the exact thing yet, but I’ve come close. Look that this bag of chocolate ‘rocks’ from Cape Cod. Yes, I ordered some, and they look just like pebbles — and like the covering on your anemone. So funny! (It’s good chocolate, too. Check out their beach rocks, and their cool lobsters!)

    • I read the same thing on the net, Linda. Looking back at photos of the anemone flowers I took when I was backpacking two years ago, I can see the similarity between the stamens on the flowers and the tentacles on the sea anemones.
      Peggy is into her annual suffering from pollen as well and has begun her allergy routine. My reaction is more in my voice than my eyes or sinuses. At times, I can hardly talk. Good thing I can type.
      Checked out the chocolate and can see the resemblance. I used to rarely eat chocolate. And then I discovered Harry and David’s dark chocolate truffles. I’m addicted! I allow myself one per night. 🙂

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