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.

Metridium senile, short plumose anemone 

Under water, with it’s tentacles extended, it’s a beautiful anemone. I don’t too often see it on the exposed rocky shores of northern Oregon. These found favorable conditions 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

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Urticina, painted anemone

This a good sized anemone. It’s one of the beauties of Pacific northwest shores. I’ve only encountered it on protected and semi-protected places. The color is variable.

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Anthopleura xanthogrammica, giant green anemone

Giant greens get my nod for best scientific name. An intimate view of the oral disk can be seen here.

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Anthopleura elegantissima, pink-tipped green anemone

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.

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

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Anthopleura artemisia, moonglow anemone 

Also known as burrowing or buried anemones, 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.

References

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

Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Cnidarians and Ctenophores page


This page was updated slightly on May 17, 2020