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Sarcodes sanguinea in Yosemite National Park - May 2013.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Subfamily: Monotropoideae
Tribe: Pterosporeae
Genus: Sarcodes
S. sanguinea
Binomial name
Sarcodes sanguinea

Sarcodes is the monotypic genus of a north-west American flowering springtime plant in the heath family (Ericaceae), containing the single species Sarcodes sanguinea, commonly called the snow plant or snow flower. It is a parasitic plant that derives sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to tree roots. Lacking chlorophyll, it is unable to photosynthesize.[1] Ectomycorrhizal (EM) symbioses involve a mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return, the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection from pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner by way of the fungus.[2] This is known as mycoheterotrophy. The snow plant is host-specific and can only form relationships with the ectomycorrhizal Basidiomycete Rhizopogon ellenae.[3]

The plant's aboveground tissue is its inflorescence, a raceme of bright scarlet red flowers wrapped in many strap-like, pointed bracts with fringed edges, themselves bright red to orange in color.[4]

Sarcodes sanguinea is native to montane areas of the California Floristic Province, from the Oregon Cascade Range (as far north as the Umpqua River), through the mountains of California including the Transverse Ranges (though it is absent from the California Coast Ranges between the Klamath Mountains), and into the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir range of northern Baja California.

Its species epithet sanguinea refers to the striking red flower that emerges from the sometimes still snow-covered ground in early spring or summer; this may be as late as July in high elevations, such as those of the High Sierra Nevada and Cascades.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Capon, Brian (2005). Botany for Gardeners (2nd ed.). Portland, OR: Timber Publishing. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-88192-655-2.
  2. ^ Bruns TD; Bidartondo MI; Taylor DL (2002). "Host Specificity in Ectomycorrhizal Communities: What do the exceptions tell us?". Integr. Comp. Biol. 42 (2): 352–359. doi:10.1093/icb/42.2.352. PMID 21708728.
  3. ^ Trappe, James; R, Molina; Luoma, Daniel; Cazares, Efren; D, Pilz; Smith, Jane; Castellano, Michael; SL, Miller; Trappe, Matthew (2009-01-01). Diversity, ecology, and conservation of truffle fungi in forests of the Pacific Northwest.
  4. ^ a b Schoenherr, Allan A. (1995). A Natural History of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-0-520-06922-0.

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