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Phylum Cnidaria > Class Anthozoa > Subclass Alcyonaria/Octocorallia > Order Alcyonacea > Family Nephtheidae
Asparagus flowery soft coral
Nephthea sp.*
Family Nephtheidae
updated Nov 2019
Where seen? This large purplish flowery soft coral is commonly seen on our Southern shores. When out of water with the polyps retracted, the tips of this soft coral looks like asparagus spears. Usually among living hard corals on the reef flats.

Features: Colony bushy 15-20cm to 50cm. Colony is branched with thick study 'stems' emerging from a stout central 'trunk'. The 'stems' may be white, lilac or purple. Polyps tiny (about 0.5cm) with eight beige or brown branched tentacles. The polyps appear in clusters only at the tips of the branches, the rest of the colony smooth. No obvious large spikes among the polyps. When the polyp tentacles are retracted, the body column forms little lumps, the entire colony may appear purplish or lilac, and the rounded lumps give the 'stems' the appearance of asparagus spears. With the polyps tentacles expanded, the colony appears brown and fluffy. The animals harbour symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) and thus can be found in clearer water.

Sometimes confused with Smooth flowery soft corals (Litophyton sp.). It may also resemble the Fire anemone which, unlike the soft coral, has white stripes radiating from the centre of the oral disk.

Flowery friends:
Sometimes, tiny transparent red nose shrimps and tiny colourful brittle stars can be seen on this soft coral.

Brown when tentacles are expanded,
purple when tentacles are retracted.
Pulau Hantu, Apr 04

Sometimes mistaken for a Fire anemone.
Kusu Island, Jun 04

Pastel colours suggest a stressed colony.
Terumbu Semakau, May 19

Expanded tentacles and contracted tentacles.
Pulau Hantu,Mar 07

Eight brown branched tentacles.
Pulau Semakau, Aug 11

Tentacles retracted, body column forms lumps.
No spikes among the polyps.
Pulau Hantu, Jan 06

Cyrene Reef, Dec 08

With tiny orange brittle stars.

Cyrene Reef, Mar 07

With tiny orange brittle stars.

Sisters Island, Aug 07

Tiny transparent shrimp.

*ID awaits confirmation. Species are difficult to positively identify without close examination.
On this website, they are grouped by external features for convenience of display
Asparagus flowery soft corals on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Lazarus Island, Feb 11
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Pulau Berkas, May 10

Terumbu Salu, Jan 10

Terumbu Berkas, Jan 10

Terumbu Salu, Aug 10

Pulau Sudong, Dec 09
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his flickr.

Pulau Pawai, Dec 09
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his flickr.

Terumbu Salu, Jun 10



  • Fabricius, Katharina and Philip Alderslade, 2001. Soft Corals and Sea Fans. Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territoriy. 264 pp.
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