Most algae are microscopic, either invisible to the naked
eye, or visible only as scums. The macrosopic algae (macroalgae) are best known as
the seaweeds. Wildwood has no seaweeds, of course, but it does have an alga robust
enough to be seen with the naked eye and even to be mistaken for a plant.
This alga is Chara
vulgaris, the common stonewort. It is found growing in a dense bed at the base
of the weeping tufa cliffs. This is not a rare algae, but it is not common to see a
stonewort growing almost on land. They are more commonly seen at the bottoms of
The stoneworts, or Charophytes, are all macroscopic and multicellular. Some of
their cells are among the largest known, being several centimeters long. Many of the
stoneworts are found only in limestone waters like the water coming out of the cliff in
Wildwood Park, and they coat themselves with precipitated crystals of calcium carbonate, visible as white flecks in the microscope picture below.
Members of the genus Chara typically smell of garlic and/or skunk, and Chara
vulgaris is said to be among the smelliest.