This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of 48° North.

Anemones are mostly stationary animals that have stinging tentacles to subdue prey. Their waving arms then transport the hapless creature to a centrally located mouth, where it quickly becomes the next meal. The Painted Anemone, also known as the Christmas Anemone, is one of the most common anemones around the San Juan Islands. They feed on crabs, mussels, barnacles, and fish. Not every creature is fair game, as the Candy-striped Shrimp (appropriately named), seems to be immune to the sting, and so one can find a candy-stripe next to a painted, neatly tucked into the anemone’s waving arms of death.

Painted Anemones are about five inches tall, display vibrant colors, and sport about 100 tentacles arranged in circular rows. Somehow, these creatures can attack the relatively huge Sunflower Star, a star that can grow to three feet in diameter. We don’t need to dive to see these striking animals as they’re commonly seen on a minus tide, drooping or hanging from sheltered rocks like a deflated balloon. They don’t have bones to hold them upright when out of the water. While it seems they’re ‘stuck’ in place anchored like a plant, if extreme danger threatens, they can ‘unstick’ themselves and move away on foot. It must work, because Painted Anemones can live sixty to eighty years.