Squeeze some brown balls at the beach

Brown grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia.

Now I know why so many Aussies in Canada play hacky sack. It’s their brown balls.

That is, it’s the brown balls of fibrous material that litter beaches in South Australia. They look like naked hacky sack balls, ready to bounce off your ankle.

I recently visited Middleton Beach with my friend Jared. While he sought waves on the water, I scanned the beach for artifacts.

Along with round stones and shards of surf board, there were millions of hairy balls that I affectionately called “beach potatoes.” They were generally smooth, matted spheres that had some heft when you gave them a gentle squeeze.

I did an image search on Google and it led me to a page on Wikipedia for Posidonia oceanica. If the balls I saw on the beach are the same, they are a very common type of sea plant called Neptune Grass.

“It forms large underwater meadows that are an important part of the ecosystem. The fruit is free floating and known in Italy as “the olive of the sea.” Balls of fibrous material from its foliage, known as egagropili, wash up to nearby shorelines.”

And further down in the Wikipedia entry, it says,

“This species is found only in the Mediterranean Sea where it is in decline, occupying an area of only about 3 per cent of the basin.”

The Mediterranean Sea? So either these mysterious beach potatoes are not Neptune Grass; or they are Neptune Grass and have escaped the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. They then floated their little brown butts down to south Australia.

All I know is I think these little brown balls are cute—and they probably make awesome hacky sacks.

Brown grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia.
What are these brown, grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia? Are they Posidonia oceanica (Neptune grass) or naked hacky sacks?