Sarcodes sanguinea (snow plant)

Sarcodes sanguinea is a striking and relatively well known member of subfamily Monotropoideae that grows in California and southern Oregon (see below). On my last field trip to northern California in late May, this species was blooming in full force!

A. Julian Roberts examines an inflorescence of Sarcodes sanguinea just north of Lassen Volcanic National Park. B. Inflorescences often grow at the bases of conifers, presumably because the plants are 'tapped' into the mycorrhizal fungi associated with these trees. C. The geographic range of S. sanguinea from Gary Wallace's 1975 monograph of Monotropoideae (Wassman Journal of Botany, 33)

Top left: Julian Roberts examines an inflorescence of Sarcodes sanguinea just north of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Top right: Inflorescences often grow at the bases of conifers, presumably because the plants are ‘tapped’ into the mycorrhizal fungi associated with these trees. Bottom: Excerpt and geographic range of S. sanguinea from Gary Wallace’s 1975 monograph of Monotropoideae (Wasmann Journal of Botany, 33)

The flowers of S. sanguinea are incredible. All perianth parts are bright red, just like the rest of the plant. Only the carpels are light colored! The flowers also produce copious amounts of nectar, which began oozing out as soon as I sliced the flowers in half. Check out the anthers of this plant– pollen is released through an apical slit-like pore. Fancy, right? How do you think these are pollinated– by bees or by hummingbirds?

Cross sections of S. sanguinea flowers (left)-- these produce nectar plentifully! Diagram of stamens and vasculature of the flower (from Doyel & Gorss, Madrono, 1941)

Cross sections of S. sanguinea flowers (left)– these produce nectar plentifully! Diagram of stamens and vasculature of the flower (from Doyel & Gorss, Madrono, 1941)

Doyel, B. E. and L. M. Goss. 1941. Some details of the reproductive structures of Sarcodes. Madroño 6(1): 1-7.

Wallace, G. D. 1975. Studies of the Monotropoideae (Ericaceae): taxonomy and distribution. The Wasmann Journal of Biology 33(1 and 2).

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3 responses to “Sarcodes sanguinea (snow plant)

  1. Isn’t it interesting that most people think of “plants” as green. Sarcodes looks like it belongs on another planet! Love it.

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