Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Mycotroph family of plants manages to somehow survive without chlorophyll and photosynthesis. The strange looking snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea), a red and fleshy parasitic plant, gets its nutrition from the fungi in the soil below it and its water from nearby confiners – therefor it is able to survive without doing the hard job of photosynthesis itself.
The snow plant is found in the western United States, including the Sierra Nevada range of California. Its name derives from the striking red flower that emerges from the sometimes still snow-covered ground in early spring (mid-may in the Sierra Nevada) (via). Scientists are not sure why the flower has such a bright red colour, presumably the bright red attracts pollinating insects in the rather shady forest floor areas where the snow plant grows.
The flowers of the snow plant point downwards once they open. The inside of a snow plant flower contains a large white ovary, which contains seeds when it matures. The plant also develops fruit that are colourful and fleshy when mature, but afterwards they dry out and fall off.