I must be in Botanical Mode. Ever seen anything like this before? This organism was quite wondrous to examine, though not quite as delightful as the aforementioned sea urchins. This is Not a fungus. This "Snow Flower" is the flowering part of a subterranean parasitic plant, that feeds off of tree symbiotes. Let me run that by you again, but starting with the tree. Trees and other plants have nitrogen fixing (ie, trees need nitrogen but nitrogen isn't available to them in an accessible form; they need things like fungi to help convert it into usable Nitrogen)
friends, ie, symbiotes, that hang out on their roots. Apparently, the Snow Flower plant also finds this converted Nitrogen to be really tasty, and so steals (parasitizes) some of this Nitrogen for itself. All this is happening underground, but when the Snow Flower Plant wants to disperse some offspring, it flowers above ground.
This particular species, Sarcodes sanguinea
, is found in the Californian Sierra Nevadas. Ie, in South Lake Tahoe, where I was over the weekend.
By the way, if you're looking up this info for a school project or something, I just pulled most of this info off of Wikipedia, and tossed in vague memories of biology classes from about a decade ago. This blog is NOT a scientific resource. NOR is it a photo resource. If you want to use a photo, just ask me OK? Alrighty.