AppearanceThe thallus of this common canopy-forming kelp has a richly branched holdfast and a cylindrical stipe 10–36 m long, terminating in a single, gas-filled pneumatocyst from which the many blades, up to 10 m long, develop. Blade growth can reach 15 cm per day. Reproductive patches develop on the blades and drop to the seafloor at maturity.
NamingThe species ''Nereocystis luetkeana'' was named after Fyodor Petrovich Litke by Mertens and then described by Postels and Ruprecht.
HabitatThis annual kelp grows on rock from the low intertidal to subtidal zones; it prefers semi-exposed habitats or high-current areas. Offshore beds can persist for one to many years, usually in deeper water than ''Eualaria'' or ''Macrocystis'', where they co-occur.
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