Optimal defense theory (ODT) predicts antiherbivore defensive compounds will be allocated so that the most valuable or most susceptible tissues will be best defended. The growth–differentiation balance hypothesis (GDBH) predicts that defense allocation will be a result of trade-offs between growth and defense. Thus, these two theories predict opposite allocation patterns with respect to “valuable,” actively growing meristematic and reproductive tissues. ODT predicts that meristems and reproductive tissues should have higher defense levels than nonmeristematic vegetative tissues; the GDBH predicts the defense levels of meristems and reproductive tissues will be lower than vegetative tissues. We examined allocation patterns of phlorotannins in 21 species of kelps (Order Laminariales) and rockweeds (Order Fucales) from nine sites on the west coast of the United States to determine if allocation patterns better matched the predictions of ODT or the GDBH and to look for differences in allocation patterns among sites. Within-species differences in phlorotannin levels occurred in 10 of the 21 species examined. Meristems of both kelps and rockweeds had higher phlorotannin levels than nonmeristematic vegetative tissues, consistent with ODT. Phlorotannin levels in reproductive tissues of kelps were higher than vegetative tissues, but levels in reproductive tissues of rockweeds were lower than vegetative tissues, indicating that allocation strategies may follow taxonomic lines. Allocation patterns differed among sites in four of the 16 species collected from more than one site. Differences in allocation patterns among sites were usually changes in the ratios of phlorotannins in well-defended compared to poorly defended tissues, rather than changes in which tissues were well defended or poorly defended. We concluded that environmental variability can have large effects on the concentration of phlorotannins in algae but has limited effects on allocation patterns among tissues.