Widespread across northern and central Europe, including Iceland and England, but rather local; rare in southern Europe. Extending across Asia to North America.
The vernacular names refer to the coral-like appearance of the rhizome, which bears no true roots. A mycorrhizal fungus in the rhizome acts as a source of food, so that the plant is at least partially saprophytic, although there is some chlorophyll in the stems. There are no leaves other than scale-like structures along the stem. The plants are usually no more than about 15 cm in height, found in groups in shady damp woods, up to 2000 metres altitude. Flowers are small, predominantly green or yellowish.
Photograph: Saas Fee, Switzerland 1987.
Click photograph for larger image.
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