During the long, freezing Caucasian winters that drive most plants into fruitless dormancy, Corydalis conorhiza busies itself with growing unique “snow roots” that suck nutrients from the snow above it. The snow roots, which were discovered by botanists exploring the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia, are almost more similar to the filaments of fungi mycelium than they are to the normal ground roots of the plant. They are extremely thin and rot away almost immediately after the protective layer of snow melts away from them.
Covered by snow for most of the year, C. conorhiza has only a short summer growing season to produce shoots and flowers. The scientists who discovered the plant determined that the snow roots absorbed nitrogen, an essential yet scarce factor for plant growth, from the snow they grew in, allowing them to make the most of their few months of summer.
Note – Here’s a challenge for you Wikipedia fans:
There’s no Wikipedia page for Corydalis conorhiza! I don’t know about you, but I think that that’s unacceptable. Go out and make a Wikipedia page! I would do it myself, but, um, I want to leave the honor to one of you. Yep.
More information: Everything here pretty much comes from the New Scientist article.
Unique roots let plant forage in the snow [New Scientist]
Snow Roots [Isegoria]
New Scientist – Unique roots let plant forage in the snow (Image: V. G. Onipchenko)
Isegoria – Snow Roots (Image: unknown)