Text Size: A  A  A

Whip Coral

Leptogorgia virgulata

Whip coral varies in color from yellow, tan or orange to deep purple. (North Carolina State Parks)
Whip coral varies in color from yellow, tan or orange to deep purple. (North Carolina State Parks)

Whip coral is an invertebrate with long, whip-like branches covered in tiny polyps. It lives on rocks, reefs and other hard surfaces throughout the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Appearance:

  • Long, slender, whip-like branches
  • Varies in color from yellow, tan or orange to deep purple
  • Branches are covered with coral polyps, which look like tiny, white dots against the coral’s skeleton
  • Can grow to 3 feet tall

Habitat:

  • Grows on rocks, reefs, pilings, bulkheads and other hard surfaces from the low-tide line to deep waters
  • Provides important habitat for fish such as black sea bass

Range:

  • Found in the salty waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay

Feeding:

  • Suspension feeder
  • Each polyp has eight feathery, saw-toothed tentacles that periodically emerge to sweep plankton and other tiny particles into the coral’s body

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Unlike other corals, whip coral reproduces sexually by external fertilization
  • After hatching, free-swimming larvae float in the water for 3-20 days
  • Larvae eventually settle to the bottom and search for a hard surface to attach themselves to
  • After attaching, larvae morph into a form that more closely resembles adults

Other Facts:

  • Also known as the sea whip
  • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck first described whip coral in 1815 and gave the coral its scientific name
  • Related to hydroids and anemones

Sources and Additional Information:


410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved