Snow plant Sarcodes sanguinea - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffDuring the first weekend in June a group of Berkeley Hort staff went on a camping trip to Dodge Ridge (elevation 7,000 feet) near Pinecrest, California in the Stanislaus National Forest, and had the fortune of stumbling upon the elusive Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea)! A perfect storm of nature is required for this vibrant, bright red flower spike to appear. It is almost magical…it doesn’t need the sun to survive, it derives its nutrients from fungi in the soil placing it in the mycotrophic category, and then lives off the fungi, so it’s basically a parasite. The Snow Plant with its extraterrestrial look (some described it as a cherry dipped ice cream cone.) is hard to find but easy to identify once you see it because it cannot be mistaken for anything else. A total of six plants were sighted during our 4-day stay in the wilderness. These ladies-in-red were so captivating that it inspired the following Haiku:

unique snow plant bloom
like phoenix of lore you rise
signs of life to come

—Dorothy Abuan & Fele Jensen