Record display

Record Number


PROSEA Handbook Number

15(1): Cryptogams: Algae


Acanthophora spicifera (Vahl) Borgesen


Bot. Tidsskr. 30: 201 (1910).



Chromosome Numbers

2n = 64


Fucus spicifera Vahl (1802), Fucus acanthophorus J.V. Lamour. (1805), Acanthophora thierryi ('thierrii') J.V. Lamour. (1813).

Vernacular Names

Philippines: culot, kulot, lagot-baye (Ilocano).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

Acanthophora spicifera occurs throughout the tropics in the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean to the Guyanas, tropical Africa), on almost all coasts of the Indian Ocean and in the western part of the Pacific Ocean (north to Japan, south to Hawaii). In South-East Asia it is widely distributed and recorded from Burma (Myanmar), Thailand (Gulf), Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, and is always more frequent than Acanthophora muscoides (L.) Bory.


Acanthophora spicifera is eaten raw as a salad or cooked with other vegetables in the Philippines. In Vietnam it is a source for carrageenan processing.

Production and International Trade

No statistical data are available on the production of Acanthophora spicifera from the wild for food or medicinal uses.


Extracts of Acanthophora spicifera show inhibitory effects on Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Extracts in 70% aqueous ethanol show antiviral activity for several Indian strains of livestock viral diseases. The extracts show haemagglutination activity for several kinds of erythrocytes, while no such activity could be detected for Acanthophora muscoides. It contains lambda carrageenan, a phycocolloid of very limited occurrence. In samples of this alga (dry weight basis) 950 ppm bromine as well as 80 ppm copper have been measured. The major xanthophyll is antheraxanthin; it also contains #b-carotene and b-cryptoxanthin; lutein is found in trace amounts.


Thalli erect, to 30 cm tall, cartilaginous, translucent, yellow-red to brown-purple, breaking easily, attached by a discoid holdfast. Branching irregular, sparse, ultimate determinate branches open, long, arcuate, bearing short branchlets rarely found on the indeterminate branches, terete, beset with spinous projections. In cross-section axial cells surrounded by 5 periaxial cells and small rounded cortical cells; epidermal cells elongated, fibre-like. Life cycle triphasic, diplo-haplontic and isomorphic. Tetrasporangia radially arranged at apices of stichidial branchlets. Gametophytes dioecious; cystocarps subsessile in the axils or near the bases of spine-like branchlets, globose when young, urn- to pear-shaped when mature, up to 450 µm in diameter; spermatangial clusters plate-like.


Acanthophora spicifera (Vahl) Børgesen - 1, habit; 2, transverse section through axis; 3, apical part of gametophyte with cystocarps; 4, apical part of sporophyte with tetrasporangia; 5, detail of apical part of sporophyte with tetrasporangia

Growth and Development

Reproductive thalli of Acanthophora spicifera are generally longer than the vegetative ones, with tetrasporic thalli the longest. Both fertile and reproductive thalli occur throughout the year with the dominance of each of the three stages (tetrasporophytes, gametophytes, and vegetative) also changing within the year, although tetrasporic thalli generally dominate the population.


Acanthophora spicifera grows abundantly in sandy-rocky areas at the lower intertidal zone where the plants are occasionally exposed to air during very low tides, and also in the upper subtidal zone and in tide pools. It is widespread and often very common in shallow water, either in exposed situations with strong currents or in sheltered locations where it is frequently heavily epiphytized. In the Philippines, seasonal trends in the growth (length) and biomass of Acanthophora spicifera have been observed which seem to be enhanced by low salinity and low temperature regimes, presence of 'hard' substrate (for spore attachment) and good but not strong water movement.

Propagation and planting

Acanthophora spicifera is not grown in phycoculture.


Acanthophora spicifera is only harvested by hand from natural populations.


Higher biomass production can be obtained during the rainy months from October to February (99 g dry weight/m2 as against 51 g dry weight/m2 for March to September).

Handling After Harvest

Acanthophora spicifera is used fresh or sun-dried for food. It is sun-dried and powdered for medical use.


Acanthophora spicifera shows potential for production of fine chemicals and medical products.


Buchan-Antalan, T.A. & Trono Jr, G.C., 1983. The morphology, growth and seasonality in the reproductive states of Acanthophora spicifera (Vahl) Börgesen in Bacoor Bay. Natural and Applied Science Bulletin (University of the Philippines) 35: 17—27.
Cajipe, G.J.B., Laserna, E.C., Veroy, R.L. & Luistro, A.H., 1980. On the infrared spectrum of a polysaccharide obtained by alkaline extraction of the red alga Acanthophora spicifera (Vahl) Börgesen. Botanica Marina 23: 69—70.
de Jong, Y.S.D.M., Hitipeuw, C. & Prud'homme van Reine, W.F., 1999. A taxonomic, phylogenetic and biogeographic study of the genus Acanthophora (Rhodomelaceae, Rhodophyta). Blumea 44: 217—249.
de Oliveira-Filho, E.C., 1967. On the development of tetraspores of Acanthophora spicifera (Rhodomelaceae—Rhodophyta). Botanica Marina 22: 195—206.
Laserna, E.C., Veroy, R.L., Luistro, A.H. & Cajipe, G.J.B., 1981. Extracts from some red and brown seaweeds from the Philippines. Proceedings of the Xth International Seaweed Symposium, Göteborg, Sweden. Publisher Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, Germany. pp. 443—448.
Lima Ainouz, I., Holanda Sampaio, A., Barros Benevides, N.M., Ponte Freitas, A.L., Costa F.H.F., Carvalho, M.R. & Pinheiro-Joventino, F., 1992. Agglutination of enzyme treated erythrocytes by Brazilian marine algal extracts. Botanica Marina 35: 475—479.
Premnathan, M., Chandra, K., Bajpai, S.K. & Kathiresan, K., 1992. A survey of some Indian marine plants for antiviral activity. Botanica Marina 35: 321—324.


H.P. Calumpong

Correct Citation of this Article

Calumpong, H.P., 2001. Acanthophora spicifera (Vahl) Borgesen. In: Prud'homme van Reine, W.F. and Trono Jr, G.C. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 15(1): Cryptogams: Algae. PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. Database record:

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