Snow Plant

Scientific Name:

Sarcodes sanguinea

Type:

Parasitic Plant

Habitat:

Coniferous woods

Range:

Oregon, California and Nevada

Status:

Secure (NatureServe)

This species is

NATIVE

to the Truckee Meadows.

Identification:

This unusual plant is easy to identify; it is a bright red and pokes up through pine needles on the forest floor. The young plant looks like a cone and has overlapping bracts protecting the flowers. The plant’s stem elongates as it matures, the downward facing, urn shaped flowers have five petals. The plant has no leaves.

Fast Facts:

  • The binomial (latin) name of the plant loosely translates as "bloody flesh-like thing".

  • Snow plants do not make their own food; they cannot photosynthesize as they have no chlorophyll. Instead they get their food from fungi underneath the ground. The fungi get the food from the roots of conifers they are associated with. Using radioactive carbon, one study showed that the sugars from the conifer roots enter the fungi and then are transferred into the roots of the snow plant.

  • The underground parts of snow plants are white.

  • Sarcodes was called the snow plant because it was thought to come up through the snow.  But it really doesn't--it comes up after the snow melts or has mostly melted.” - Botanical Society of America

  • Here in the Truckee Meadows, snow plant can be seen at Galena Creek Regional Park. 

Sources:

Contributor(s):

Emma Wynn (research, content, and photo)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

May 12, 2021, 10:50:27 PM