Animals -> Marine Invertebrates -> Cnidarians -> Sea Anemones

Sea Anemones

Several cultures on the northwest coast, including Nootka and Manhousat, are reported to have consumed sea anemone [1-4]. There are many different species of sea anemone, including brown, white, red or green-colored varieties, that are abundant and can be gathered year-round [4]. The giant green anemone is a large and common species known to be consumed by several groups. However, the Manhousat are reported to have collected only brown-colored anemones in early spring (and not after June) [3].

Anemones were gathered at low spring tide during daylight. Women were responsible for gathering them, but men occasionally participated [1]. Women wore a tightly woven cedar bark back protector and packed an openwork basket with tumpline while the men carried a woven cedar bark sack [2]. Anemones were collected from rocky beaches rather than sandy ones because it was difficult to clean those collected from sandy shores. Prying sticks were used to separate them from the rocks and the viscera were then cleaned out. The prying stick was a one and a half foot long stick with a tongue-shaped end that was adzed as thin as possible. It was sharpened often to be effectively forced under the anemone [3].

Manhousat steamed anemones in a pit or, more recently, roasted them in a bread pan for half an hour. Water was added to the bread pan to prevent sticking [3]. Anemones were enjoyed and considered a delicacy by many, especially elders. If one was served an anemone, it was to be eaten in its entirety, otherwise, it was said that the person would become a widower [1, 3].


1.         Arima EY: The West Coast People: The Nootka of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, vol. Special Publication No. 6. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Musem; 1983.

2.         Arima E, Dewhirst J: Nootkans of Vancouver Island. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 391-397.

3.         Ellis DW, Swan L: Teachings of The Tides: Uses of Marine Invertebrates By The Manhousat People, vol. 1st edition. Nanaimo, B.C.: Theytus Books Ltd.; 1981.

4.         Kirk R: Daily Life. In: Wisdom of the Elders: Native Traditions on the Northwest Coast- The Nuu-chah-nulth, Southern Kwakiutl and Nuxalk. edn. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre in association with The British Columbia Provincial Museum; 1986: 105-138.

Sea anemones represent a diverse group cnidarians, like corals and jellyfish, including about 6,500 species. In North America, there are many species of sea anemones, including the giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) found along the Pacific coast.

Sea anemones take the form of sessile polyps, either solitary or colonial, consisting of three regions: the anchored basal disk, the tubular middle region containing the digestive chamber, and the oral region ringed by more than eight tentacles arrayed in multiples of six. Sea anemones can take a variety of size, shape, and colours. The giant green anemone can have a crown of tentacles almost as wide as its height, measuring up to 30 cm, and has a bright green colour because of its algae partner living in its tissue and providing it with some nutrients.

Sea anemones occupy mainly sandy or rocky shorelines between the low and mid-intertidal zones. They either burrow in soft substrates or cement themselves onto hard substrates. They prey on detached mussels, sea urchins, small fish, and crabs and are preyed on mainly by sea star and sea snails. In sea anemones, there is asexual reproduction by budding, breaking up, or fission and sexual reproduction involving either internal or external fertilization.


Best R, Campbell A: "Sea Anemones and Jellyfishes". In: The Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Edited by Dawes ACJ: Oxford University Press; 2007.


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Giant green anemone
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This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network
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