Ivory Bush Coral
Ivory Bush Coral, (Oculina varicosa), is a near-threatened species of coral ranging from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The main concern for the species lies with those found off the coast of east-central Florida. It is listed as a species of concern with the US National Marine Fisheries Service, which states there is not enough information available to list it under the US Endangered Species Act.
Oculina coral reefs off Florida have been identified as essential fish habitat for federally-managed species. The Oculina Banks, a reef of Ivory Bush Coral off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida, has been preserved by the Experimental Oculina Research Reserve. Known threats to coral in this region are damage from mechanical fishing gear (dredges, bottom long lines, trawl nets and anchors).
A study of the Oculina Banks reef found that more than 300 species of invertebrates live among the branches of the Ivory Bush Coral, further noting the importance of preserving the coral’s habitat.
Ivory Bush Coral forms unique thicket-like structures in 230 to 330 feet deep waters. Colonies are tree-like, with highly clumped, irregular bushy branches.