The Dream of the Sleeping Jellyfish

When I saw them I was immediately struck by their shapes. They looked like hundreds of snowflakes lying at the bottom of the mudflats in the Florida Keys’ Tavernier mangrove swamp.

I became preoccupied with them, checking them during different times of day.

“I’ll be there in a few minutes, I’m going to visit those underwater snowflakes.” I told my husband, Ed.

“Are they sea anemones?” I wondered. “Are they some kind of tropical underwater flower?”

I lay prone on the dock, staring. And there I saw it. I saw upside down jellyfish- yes standing on their heads as if they were sleeping. I realized the beautiful geometric shapes, the snowflakes, were their out folded branching tentacles.

How bizarre!

Some of the jellyfish were “breathing,” their heads expanding and contracting, pushing water, while others seemed completely comatose, not moving at all.

A few smaller ones were actually swimming heads-up the way I would expect a jellyfish to!

I took lots of photos while hoping no boat would disturb their slumber.

I read, laughing, when I learned that they are indeed known as Cassiopea, the “upside down jellyfish,” ironically, all part of a symbiotic relationship with algae. (

I really fell in love with this snowflake jelly forest. Now, before I go to bed, I often wonder what they are dreaming about.

Perhaps clean water and a healthy sea…

14 thoughts on “The Dream of the Sleeping Jellyfish

  1. Thanks for the pictures & education on our marine life in South Florida. I wish our waters in SW Florida were as clear! Lake O. releases down the Caloosahatchee River increases our turbidity…

  2. What a wonderful blog. One daughter seeing snowflakes in the Rockies while another daughter is seeing snowflakes in the Keys. How can this home-bound mother complain?

  3. Yet another educational and moving article by amazing Jacqui
    Jellyfish are so interesting until they sting you!!!

  4. jellyfish are the main food of the criticly endangered leatherback sea turtle===If the jellyfish go then will go the leatherback.

    1. Jacqui, wonderfully poetic post, perfectly illustrated!

      Just wanted to say Thank you, I enjoyed it—

  5. I am so glad you posted this! I have been stumped for over a year trying to figure out what these were! Early on I though they were plastic Xmas snow flakes, blown in the canal from Hurricane Irma! And now a year later I realized they had multiplied and must be a marine organism. I was so happy to find your article to confirm that finally!
    Cudjoe Key

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