Sarcodes sanguinea Torrey

Snow Plant
Ericaceae (Heath Family)


Snow plant is a red, fleshy, glandular-hairy saprophyte lacking chlorophyll with simple stems either solitary or in clusters growing to 20" tall from a thick, brittle root.  The leaves are scale-like, lanceolate, more numerous toward the base and ciliate on the margins.  There are many red flowers on a stout terminal raceme that emerges from the soil erect.  The flowers are subtended by conspicuous bracts and are somewhat nodding on curved pedicels.  The bracts are long overlapping strips that protect the flowers as the plant pushes its way up through the soil and then gradually wither. Each flower has five, free, lanceolate to ovate, glandular pubescent sepals and a five-lobed, fused, campanulate corolla with ten included stamens that have thin filaments and a ± capitate stigma.  The flowers also have a five-chambered superior ovary with axile placentation.  The fruit is a brittle, indehiscent capsule with many small, pitted ovoid seeds.  Snow plant grows in the thick humus of montane coniferous forests from 4000' to 8000', often under pines, from the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains northward, blooming from May to July.  It also apparently supplements its nutrient intake by at least partially parasitizing the roots of pine trees by means of a shared mycorrhizal fungus. These pictures were taken in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Sarcodes 2) sanguinea.
Pronunciation: sar-KO-deez san-GWIN-ee-a.
Click here for Botanical Term Meanings.


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