Saturday, June 7, 2008
snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea), for Michelle
When I came home and looked it up, I was mortified that I forgot this passage from Chapter V, "The Wild Gardens of the Yosemite Park" from Muir's Our National Parks:
To tourists the most attractive of all the flowers of the forest is the snow plant ( Sarcodes sanguinea ). It is a bright red, fleshy, succulent pillar that pushes up through the dead needles in the pine and fir woods like a gigantic asparagus shoot. The first intimation of its coming is a loosening and upbulging of the brown stratum of decomposed needles on the forest floor, in the cracks of which you notice fiery gleams; presently a blunt dome-shaped head an inch or two in diameter appears, covered with closely imbricated scales and bracts. In a week or so it grows to a height of six to twelve inches. Then the long fringed bracts spread and curl aside, allowing the twenty or thirty five-lobed bell-shaped flowers to open and look straight out from the fleshy axis. It is said to grow up through the snow; on the contrary it always waits until the ground is warm, though with other early flowers it is occasionally buried or half buried for a day or two by spring storms. The entire plant-flowers, bracts, stem, scales, and roots-is red. But notwithstanding its glowing color and beautiful flowers, it is singularly unsympathetic and cold. Everybody admires it as a wonderful curiosity, but nobody loves it. Without fragrance, rooted in decaying vegetable matter, it stands beneath the pines and firs lonely, silent, and about as rigid as a graveyard monument.(bold emphasis mine)
So there you have it, Michelle: the Snow Plant.
[Snow Plant image by Flickr user Ken-ichi]