That unpleasant algae is returning to the Gulf Coast beaches

June Grass comes with the warming waters
Destin, Florida, in the summertime of 2020.
Destin, Florida, in the summertime of 2020.(WSFA 12 News)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 11:05 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - If you’ve been to an Alabama or Florida Panhandle beach in the summer, you are well aware of those bunches of seaweed floating in the water or piling up on the sand.

Most of what we are seeing is actually called June Grass, and it’s not actually a grass at all. It’s algae that forms every year along the northern Gulf Coast once the water temperatures warm up enough.

June Grass is starting to show up along the northern Gulf Coast.
June Grass is starting to show up along the northern Gulf Coast.(WSFA 12 News)

That temperature threshold has finally been met at some beaches along Florida’s Emerald Coast. This includes Navarre, Fort Walton Beach and Destin. The June Grass hasn’t piled up like what the Florida Peninsula is experiencing with the influx of sargassum.

It is being found floating in the water near the coast though. So in all likelihood there will be some June Grass present over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The amount of it will vary from location to location as is always the case.

Then from there the amount of June Grass will only go up as temperatures warm up in June, July and August.

But it’s impossible to tell you where the June Grass concentration will be the highest. It’s also impossible to tell you how much of it will form and hang out on the beaches from Dauphin Island to Panama City Beach.

What I can tell you is June Grass is good for the ecosystem, and it’s safe for beachgoers. The one negative side effect of its presence is the foul odor it gives off when it washes up on the beach and rots in the hot sun.

Memorial Day weekend looks great along the northern Gulf Coast.
Memorial Day weekend looks great along the northern Gulf Coast.(WSFA 12 News)

The “magic” temperature that supports the growth of June Grass is roughly 80 degrees. The exact temperature can vary from beach to beach and year to year, and there’s not truly a perfect temperature to go by.

Coincidentally enough, 80-degree water is where most of the beaches along the northern Gulf Coast stand right now. For late May this is right about where we should be in that department. The water will certainly be comfortable if you take a dip this weekend!

Something else to keep in mind if you’re hitting the beaches for the long holiday weekend is the presence of jellyfish and the flag system. Some beaches along the Emerald Coast have noted an influx of jellyfish a few times of late. As a result, there have been some purple flags flying.

A purple flag flying means dangerous marine life has been spotted, or is likely to exist that day. This can include jellyfish, stingrays or other species hazardous to humans. It’s very important to take purple flags seriously.

Other flag colors you’ll see this weekend are green and yellow. For Alabama beaches, yellow flags will likely be flying because swimming conditions are forecast to be rather calm. For Florida beaches, the flags will likely be green for that same reason.

You can always check the forecast for beaches along the northern Gulf Coast by using this very helpful tool updated by the National Weather Service.

Not reading this story on the WSFA News App? Get news alerts FASTER and FREE in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store!