Snow Plant Inflorescence
I just got back from a whirlwind half day trip up to the Sierras. I found a few morels (my first ever), some boletes I need to key out and some beautiful Sarcodes (Snow Plant).
(Ice House Reservoir. Sierras, California - 5/2013)
More information on this awesome, non-food producing plant from wikepedia:
Sarcodes is a monotypic genus of a single springtime flowering plant in the heath family containing the single species Sarcodes sanguinea, commonly called the snow plant or snow flower. It is a parasitic plant that derives sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizalfungi that attach to roots of trees. It is unable to photosynthesize nutrients. Ectomycorrhizal symbioses involve a mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return, the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection from pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner by way of the fungus.