Many workers have experienced difficulties in trying to identify species within the genus Enteromorpha. The difficulties arise from our lack of knowledge of the range of variation for the characters used to delimit the taxa and of the sources of the variation shown.
Enteromorpha intestinalis (L.) Link was originally described by Linnaeus (1753) under the name Ulva intestinalis as ‘Ulva tubulosa simplex’ and Enteromorpha compressa (L.) Grev., also by Linnaeus (1753) under the name Ulva compressa as ‘Ulva tubulosa ramosa compressa’. In their interpretations by later authors, the two species differ only in that the former is unbranched and the latter branched. In their cell size, in the unordered arrangement of the cells and in the single pyrenoid in the chloroplast, they seem to belong together. Whether or not a plant is branched would seem to be a straightforward character to use in practice, but for an alga of this kind this is not necessarily so. In its development the unbranched tube of the thallus begins life as a zoospore or zygote which at first divides transversely to form a short uniseriate filament and later by radial longitudinal divisions, the subsequent expansion of which leads to the formation of the hollow tube. In the formation of branches, individual cells, usually towards the base of the frond, divide by a single periclinal division. The outer cell of the pair thus formed then divides transversely forming a single-celled filament, later dividing by radial longitudinal divisions and repeating the structure of the main axis.