February 22, 2010
It's possible to spend a lot of time in the Sierras without ever seeing a snowflower. They live most of their lives underground, on rotting logs in the dirt.
But they bloom quickly and briefly, not long after the snow melts, producing these spectacular bright red flowers:
The snowflower is the only representative of its genus, and is unusual due to being both a flowering plant and a saprophyte. (Yes, botanists will tell you to use the more accurate but unwieldy term 'myco-heterotroph'.) What that means is that snowflowers get no energy through photosynthesis, like most plants do: they're actually parasites…
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