Below you’ll see a few examples of common intertidal sea anemones, mostly from the surf-swept rocky shores of the northern Oregon coast. These are just the few I’ve come across and have photos of, not an exhaustive accounting. These easy to identify with the readily available field guides and online resources (see References, at the bottom of the page). There’s nothing new here, just some images I like and natural history notes if I can think of something that hasn’t already been said.

The organization more or less follows Lamb and Hanby (2005). Common names are my choice, usually some combination of those in Lamb and Hanby (2005), and Harbo (2011). I refer to WoRMS for scientific names, and I learn a ton by browsing the natural history riches in Kozloff (1993). All photos are from northern Oregon unless otherwise noted in the caption.

Short plumose anemone, Metridium dianthus– This is the one you see in the guides as Metridium senile. Under water, with it’s tentacles extended, it’s a beautiful anemone. I don’t too often on the exposed rocky shores of northern Oregon, but the ones below found conditions favorable on an overhanging rock wall.

Metridium exposed at low tide; Pisaster and giant green anemones, and aggregating anemones also in view
Metridium finds shelter on a rarely exposed overhanging rock

Painted anemone, Urticina crassicornis This a good sized anemone. It’s one of the beauties of Pacific northwest shores. I’ve only encountered it on protected shores. The color is variable. It’s tough to beat the red and olive green column on this one. U. crassicornis is featured in The Colorful Painted Anemone, Urticina crassicornis.

Exposed red column with olive green blotches, tentacles withdrawn
This one was hiding beneath a covering of Ulva | Orcas Island, WA

Giant green anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica– This one gets my nod for best scientific name. With Pisaster ochraceus having been knocked back by sea star wasting syndrome since 2013, giant greens are the biggest, gaudiest tide pool creatures some people have ever seen. An intimate view of the oral disk can be seen here. Giant greens also feature prominently in Comparative Photos Show Rocky Intertidal Changes Between 2013 and 2016.

Giant green anemones in a low tide pool, with some red algae and orange and purple sea stars
Giant green anemones, Anthopleura xanthogrammica, in a low tide pool

Pink-tipped green anemone, Anthopleura elegantissima –  This one has a lot of common names. I usually go with aggregating anemone, or pink-tipped. Unless there has been an accident, you’ll never see a lone pink-tipped; they only occur in dense aggregations. It is said that clones war with each other and that you can find lines of separation between clones. Anthopleura elegnatissima is featured in Aggregating Anemones Handle the Sand and Anthopleura elegantissima Lives Up to All Its Common Names.

The small, densely-packed anemones are pink-tipped green anemones, Anthopleura elegantissima

Moonglow anemone, Anthopleura artemisia – Also known are burrowing or buried anemone, I’ve got to go with moonglow. Their tentacles come in quite a variety of colors. On the exposed outer coast, you’ll almost always find moonglows where sand meets rock.


Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.

Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.

Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.

Sept. J. D. 2009. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Revised ed. Harbour Publishing.

Online Resources

Field Guide to Oregon’s Rocky Intertidal

Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Cnidarians and Ctenophores page