Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Characteristics of Green Algae & Plants

By Quentin Coleman
A "red tide" is caused by a toxic by-product released by overgrowths of marine algae.

There are thousands of algae species spanning the Monera, Plantae and Protista kingdoms. Green algae species are members of Plantae, the plant kingdom. They share many characteristics unique to plants, but have only recently been included in that kingdom in the established taxonomic structure. Green algae is often confused with Blue-Green algae, which is actually a bacterial species and member of the Monera kingdom.

Energy Production

Green algae and plants produce energy through photosynthesis.

Both green algae and plants produce energy through the process of photosynthesis. Their cells contain chlorophyll, which allows them to capture sunlight as energy. This molecule gives living algae and plant cells a distinct green color. Some species of bacterial algae can photosynthesize, but they are not classified as green species.

Macro Structure

Algae growths are a collection of one-celled organisms.

Algae growths are simply a collection of one-celled organisms, even though they closely resemble structured plant life. Algae cells can form basic bonds with one another, forming strands or other basic shapes. Plants comprise an intricate structure of roots, leaves and stems. They are also equipped with the means to transport nutrients among various specialized cells.

Cellular Structure

Algae only has a membrane to protect it from its environment.

Plant cells are protected by a cell wall made of tough fiber. This allows plants to grow vertically or form gravity-defying structures. Algae only has a membrane, similar to animal cells, to protect it from its environment. Plant cells can specialize by adapting to perform a limited function, like root cells. Each algae cell is a unique organism and must be self-sufficient. This limits its ability to form complex, larger structures.


Plants and algae compete directly with each other in aquatic environments.

Plants and algae compete directly with each other in aquatic environments, especially small ponds and rivers. Both produce oxygenated water, which is essential for fish life, but can strangle out other organisms if left unchecked. Gardeners often plant a variety of floating or oxygenating plants in decorative pools or ponds to prevent algae growth. Both consume nitrogen-based nutrients from the water and provide food or shelter for animals.


About the Author


Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.