Phyllospadix scouleri (possibly P. torreyi)
I thought I'd try my hand at IDing between the two Phyllospadix spp. found along the shores of Pacific Grove. This proved to be an exercise in extensive internet searching and comparing information. SEINet states P. scouleri blades can be slightly wider than P. torreyi by up to 2.5mm, significant when they can be as small as 0.5mm. I ignored this site's information on flowering and fruiting periods, because I've found seasonal descriptions are entirely subjective across different lifeforms (e.g. Don Roberson in his Monterey Birds book states semipalmated plovers start their fall migration by late June... June, fall, seriously? And don't get me started on all the incorrect flowering periods published for coastal land plants). Jepson e-Flora states P. scouleri does not have a narrow bract base, whereas P. torreyi does. I could not find a side by side comparison to see what is considered narrow or not. The closest I could find was this University of Washington's page of P. scouleri life history. It's too bad the creators of California Biota Website don't know the difference between female spathes and male spadices, which is all new terminology for me anyways. Although, they do have beautiful pictures. What I have shown in the first picture above is a female spathe with developing fruit. MBARI has a nice summary and clearly states P. scouleri usually has 1, sometimes 2 spathes, and P. torreyi can have 1-5 spathes. Since I only found 1 spathe, I can't use that as a distinguishing factor. In the end, I'm leaning towards P. scouleri simply based on the blade width. Now after all this searching this morning, I'm daydreaming and imagining the above surf-grass could make a lovely mermaid ponytail.