What is Seagrass? Everything You Need To Know

by Will Hitchmough

You may have seen Seagrass used throughout our store in many different designs and with a range of uses. In fact, Seagrass is an extremely popular plant fibre used all over the world, known for its strong strands and lightweight nature. Indeed, it’s become so popular and ubiquitous that you may already own some Seagrass baskets in your home already!

But what exactly is Seagrass? Seagrass is a plant that grows in temperate shallow water across the UK and beyond. It became popular in the 20th century as a fibre used to build sustainable homeware by twisting its grassy blades into a rope-like fibre. 

The fibre is woven together to make rugs, coasters and placemats. It is also prevalent in basket weaving, where it’s woven onto either a wooden or metal frame making strong, lightweight and surface-friendly storage that will last a lifetime.

Let’s explore Seagrass further. In this article, we will look at:

What is Seagrass?

Seagrass and the Environment

What are the Benefits of Seagrass in Your Home

Can Seagrass Get Wet?

Can You Paint Seagrass?

Does Seagrass Smell?

    What Is Seagrass?

    Whilst its name suggests it is a variety of grass, this isn’t exactly true. It is similar to grass in appearance as it has long, green strands which grow in tight-knit groups creating blankets across the seabed. Seagrass is, however, a flowering plant.

    Its ancestors grew from seafaring algae to terrestrial plants around 500 million years ago. After 350 million years on land, Seagrass returned to the sea and diversified into the variety of species that we see and work with today. 

    It is known for harbouring small sealife of many kinds, including 2 types of seahorse that are native to UK shores.

    Seagrass And The Environment

    Seagrass is found naturally in coastal waters and estuaries across the UK and beyond. It is an incredible carbon sink, meaning that it can consume up to 35 times more carbon by weight than rainforest plants. What’s even more impressive is that Seagrass makes up around 10% of all sea-based plant life, this is despite it only taking up around 0.2% of the ocean floor’s surface. Using seagrass in the right way can lead to removing carbon from the sea and repurposing it throughout our homes. Seagrass is a great way to keep our oceans healthy by farming this fast-growing plant and using it in increasingly inventive ways. 

    Much has been written about Seagrass’ huge importance to the environment. It is currently under threat from a variety of factors relating to pollution in the UK waters. In response, environmental agencies such as the wildlife trust have created Marine Protection Areas, making sure Seagrass has a safe space to thrive for many more years to come. 

    What are the Benefits of Seagrass in Your Home?

    Aside from the brilliant environmental factors harvesting seagrass brings, it also becomes incredibly useful once dried. Artisans allow the fibres to dry naturally once they are out of water. They then fashion these fibres into small ropes by combining single strands and twisting them together. 

    This rope is incredibly pliable and strong, yet it has a reassuringly soft texture. These 3 natural qualities contribute to its popularity when used to make household items ranging from:

    The soft fibres of Seagrass mean that you can store these wonderful homeware storage solutions on any surface. They aren’t dyed, unlike other, cheaper imitation basket materials. This means that they can sit on surfaces without causing any scratches or damage. 

    Image of seagrass as seen through the sea

    Can Seagrass Baskets Get Wet?

    Seagrass can get wet, but you should aim to dry it out naturally as soon as possible. Sustained periods of dampness will cause the fibres to lose their strength and could lead to mould. Should your basket start to become dusty or mouldy, simply follow the simple steps outlined in our How To Clean Your Baskets blog. 

    If you own Seagrass that does get wet, you should dry it out as soon as possible by placing it in direct sunlight. Wiping the fibres with a cloth could lead them to fray, so this should be avoided. 

    Can You Paint Seagrass?

    Yes, you can paint Seagrass! Due to its natural absorbency, seagrass will soak up the first few coats of paint that you apply to it. 

    We’ve found a few great ways to paint Seagrass, so we thought we’d share them with you. Follow these steps and you should be able to customise your Seagrass in hundreds of different ways:

    1. Prime using a Wood Primer (here’s a good one from Lakeland Paints. You can also find cheaper options here).
    2. Once 2 coats have been applied, allow to dry for 24 hours. Consider brushing with a firm brush if you’d prefer a rough texture.
    3. Choose your paint. Oil-based paints are great for satin textures with longevity, but we’ve also used an eco-friendly Woodwash for a more rustic finish. 
    4. Since Seagrass is a complex material, the paint will take longer to dry than it would on a flat wall. We’d recommend giving it at least 24 hours to dry before using it. 

    Once finished, please send your designs to our social media accounts. We’d love to have more pictures of how people use and live with our products. One day, you might find your piece on one of our newest blogs!

    If you aren’t on social media, send an email to support@northernwillow.co.uk with your images, name and your intended use for your new design, and we may even send you a voucher as a thank you. 

    Does Seagrass Smell?

    This is a funny topic, because yes, Seagrass does smell a little. 

    Seagrass fibre is made with 100% natural materials and, as such, can give off a fragrant scent similar to linen or wax paper. Many people actually love the smell of Seagrass, including us. It adds a herbaceous aroma to your room and will fade after a few weeks. We like to see the smell of Seagrass as a bonus, rather than something to deter you from having Seagrass items in your household. 

    You can actually find Seagrass scented candles currently available on the market, which is a great way to try Seagrass’ verdant aroma. We love this range by Cornwall Soapbox. You can also find others with Yankee Candle, too!

    Buy Sustainable Seagrass Baskets From Northern Willow

    Since we started our little business in lockdown, we have stocked Seagrass from the start. Very much like Rattan or Water Hyacinth, Seagrass is just one of many natural fibres that are on the up and up in the modern British household. 

    These eco-friendly products are surely the way to move forward with household storage as they are similar in cost to their plastic counterparts, if not cheaper. Since the fibres are farmed ecologically and consciously, they are made from trapped sea carbon. Their production, therefore, has a net positive carbon footprint.

    Our FAQ page has more information on Seagrass care or even read our post on cleaning wicker for some more top tips from us. Also, make sure to check out our Seagrass range for more inspiration and be sure to check back to our blog every week for more ideas on sustainable homeware and how you can incorporate sustainable living into your life.