Quote of the Week, Perhaps a Bit Longer

"The biological community is a vast and complicated system for sharing and distributing the energy of the sun among a diversity of life forms." ~Martson Bates

6/2/10

Bloody Flesh

Snow plant peaking through!

SNOW PLANTS!!!! One of my favorites!!!! Sorry for all the exclamations, but I absolutely love snow plants (Sacrodes sanguinea--which translates to: "bloody flesh-like thing,"). Snow Plants are beautiful, bright red, parasitic plants and they started peaking their heads out of the ground a couple of weeks ago. Dan, my sister and I went for a hike up Thomas Creek--west of Reno, NV-- and found several of the little beauties pushing their heads up through the soil.

A little group of snow plants peaking through

These cool plants appear right after the snow melts--often when the ground is still moist. They belong to the Indian-pipe family (Monotropaceae), which is closely related to the heath family (manzanita, laurel). Snow plants are mycotrophic ,which means they get nutrients from fungi (mycorrhizae) that grow under the soil. Since they don't get their energy from the sun, snow plants have no chlorophyll and have no green parts.

Snow plants tend to be found growing with conifer trees, this is because conifers maintain a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae grows around the roots of the conifers, helping them obtain water and minerals. In return, the conifer provides the mycorrhizae with photosynthate (a nutrient product of photosynthesis). Snow plants take advantage of this relationship, stealing photosynthate from the mycorrhizae.

Snow plants are edible, they can be prepared much the same way as asparagus. However, in California they are protected and you can get a big fine for picking or damaging them. You can even get fined for collecting the seeds.

4 comments:

Erin said...

that was such a fun hike! and those plants were beautiful. i love hiking with you - you know so much cool stuff!

Kimberly said...

Do you know if snow plants are related to Indian Paintbrush? I have indian paintbrush all over my dad's house and it's the same fiery red.

Renee said...

I don't think they're closely related, but they are both root parasites, so maybe that's where some of their color comes from.

danwinnemucca said...

There was a few awesome giant snowplants at the tourney last weekend. They are so cool. Someone I do sort of want to eat one though to see what they taste like!