Foxtail stonewort (Lamprothamnium papulosum)

Foxtail stonewort
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Foxtail stonewort fact file

Foxtail stonewort description

GenusLamprothamnium (1)

This is a medium-sized alga with simple, equal sized whorls, which are increasingly close together towards to top of the alga, resembling furry fox tails (1) (2).

Height: up to 40 cm (1)

Foxtail stonewort biology

This is a summer annual which germinates in spring or early summer and produces spores in late summer. It reproduces both sexually, by spores, and asexually via small bulbs (1) (2).


Foxtail stonewort range

The foxtail stonewort inhabits four sites on the south coast of England in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. One of these populations is substantial but the others are small. There are also scattered populations in Ireland, along Europe’s northern coastline and the Mediterranean coastline as well as isolated populations in southern Africa (1) (2). Hebridean populations have also recently been discovered (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Foxtail stonewort habitat

As an alga that is specially adapted to tolerate nutrient-poor environments, the foxtail stonewort lives in natural and artificial brackish lagoons with small fluctuations in water level that never exceed two metres (1) (2) (3). Some animal disturbance helps reduce vascular competitors and so encourages foxtail stoneworts. Sand, gravel or pebbles are ideal substrates for growth (1).


Foxtail stonewort status

The foxtail stonewort is listed as Vulnerable and is fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (1).


Foxtail stonewort threats

The saline lagoon habitat which is home to this alga is under threat from land reclamation for industry, agriculture and recreation as well as from water pollution and changes in salinity as a result of interruptions to waterways (1). Nutrient enrichment following fertiliser run-off from farmland is a particular concern since it encourages the growth of vascular plants against which this specialised stonewort cannot compete (3).


Foxtail stonewort conservation

All the foxtail stonewort populations are located within Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Natural Nature Reserves and Special Areas of Conservation which provide protection from habitat destruction and endeavour to maintain and enhance existing populations (1) (3).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For further information see the UK Species Action Plan for this species at:

To investigate the Wildlife and Countryside Act visit:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


A collection of taxonomically unrelated groups that share some common features and are grouped together for historical reasons and for convenience. They are of simple construction, with no protective cell layers surrounding their reproductive structures. They are mainly photoautotrophic, obtaining all their energy from light and carbon dioxide, and possess the photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll A. They range in complexity from microscopic single cells to very complex plant-like forms, such as kelps. Algal groups include blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), red algae (rhodophyta), green algae (chlorophyta), brown algae and diatoms (chromista) as well as euglenophyta.
Lives or grows for just one year.
Vascular system
In plants, the system that allows water and nutrients to move around.
In animals, a spiral or convolution in the shell of a snail. In plants, a set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.


  1. The National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (October, 2004)
  2. MarLIN – the Marine Life Information Network (October, 2004)
  3. UK Biodiversity Action Plan (October, 2004)

Image credit

Foxtail stonewort  
Foxtail stonewort

© Sue Scott

Sue Scott
Strome House
North Strome
Loch Carron
IV54 8YJ
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1520 722588


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