Sarcodes sanguinea - Snow Plant

Snow plant is an herbaceous perennial wildflower with a limited geographic distribution in California, Nevada, and Oregon. Snow plant with its scarlet red coloration and early spring flowering is a beautiful wildflower. Snow plant is the only mycotrophic wildflower in the heath (Ericaceae) that is not a ghostly white color or various shades of reddish to purplish brown.

Snow plant's distribution is local. It is uncommon in its habitat. When a fortunate hiker does come across the brilliant red scarlet plants, she will generally be greeted by several individual snow plants occurring as a small colony.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea. Photo by Robert Potts.

Map of North America showing green shaded areas where the species may be found.
Sarcodes sanguinea range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Sarcodes sanguinea (Sarcodes – flesh-like as to the inflorescence; sanguinea – blood as to the color of the plant) ranges in height from 15 to 30 centimeters. The plant is a brilliant scarlet red except for the maturing fruit that is pinkish-red. It is fleshy and glandular pubescent. The leaves are scale-like. The inflorescence is a raceme of densely arranged flowers. The flowers are pendant. The fruit is a capsule containing sticky seeds. Once ripened, seed is released through an opening at the base of the style.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea. Photo by Gladys Lucille Smith.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea flower. Photo by Gary Monroe.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea flowers. Photo by Gary Monroe.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea. Photo by Gary Monroe.

Sarcodes sanguinea flowers from late spring to mid-summer. It is found in mature, moist, shaded, coniferous, or mixed forests from 1,000 to 3,100 meters.

For More Information

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea. Photo by Gary Monroe.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea fruits. Photo by Mark Brunell.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea flowers. Photo by Russ Holmes.

Sarcodes sanguinea.
Sarcodes sanguinea. Photo by Mark W. Skinner, USDA PLANTS Database.