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Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja

Bo Jacob Cichuniec, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002 The Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) is a native wildflower in the family Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family). It was adopted as Wyoming,s State Flower on January 31, 1917. This flower displays various shades of orange, red and sometimes yellow. The Castilleja grows in moist areas, dry areas, and sandy prairies. Its zones range from 3 to 9. The seeds of the Indian Paintbrush usually germinate in the fall and bloom the next spring without pre-treatment. The plant prefers full sun and/or small amounts of shade. The Indian paintbrush has the ability to grow and survive in serpentine soils, which most species are not equipped to handle the stressful amounts of high magnesium, low calcium and overloaded amounts of metals such as chromium and nickel. The height of the Indian paintbrush ranges from 1 to 2 feet tall. Dayna Drollinger, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002 Indian Paintbrush abides in the grasslands and open forest clearings from Alaska to California and throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. There are at least 6 different species of Castilleja found in the area. It is characterized by it's spikelike flower cluster, which resemble a crude brush that has been dipped in paint. Most species range from a yellow orange to crimson color. It is a perennial growing 15 to 60 cm high. It is an inflorescence with alternate leaves. The flowers bloom in early spring and often remain in full color throughout the summer. Propagating it by seed is difficult. It is a partial root parasite that needs to planted with seeds of other plants. It prefers well drained soil with full sun. It can produce it's own food yet if malnourished it will parasitize off the roots of other plants. It grows slowly and is difficult to transplant. Sow in the fall for 1 to 2 months and plant in the spring. The flowers are edible yet they must be eaten in small quantities. They will absorb selenium, a potentially toxic, alkaline mineral compound in the soil. Where high amounts of selenium in the soil is not present, Indain Paintbrush can be enjoyed in moderation with salads. Various tribes used the flowering parts as a paintbrush. The Chippewa Indians are know the use Indian Paintbrush as a medicine to treat rheumatism and as a bath rinse to make their hair glossy. Both applications are useful due to it's selenium content.

Image of Indian Paintbrush
Whole Plant

Bo Jacob Cichuniec, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002

The Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) is a native wildflower in the family Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family). It was adopted as Wyoming,s State Flower on January 31, 1917. This flower displays various shades of orange, red and sometimes yellow. The Castilleja grows in moist areas, dry areas, and sandy prairies. Its zones range from 3 to 9. The seeds of the Indian Paintbrush usually germinate in the fall and bloom the next spring without pre-treatment. The plant prefers full sun and/or small amounts of shade. The Indian paintbrush has the ability to grow and survive in serpentine soils, which most species are not equipped to handle the stressful amounts of high magnesium, low calcium and overloaded amounts of metals such as chromium and nickel. The height of the Indian paintbrush ranges from 1 to 2 feet tall.

Dayna Drollinger, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002

Indian Paintbrush abides in the grasslands and open forest clearings from Alaska to California and throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. There are at least 6 different species of Castilleja found in the area.

It is characterized by it's spikelike flower cluster, which resemble a crude brush that has been dipped in paint. Most species range from a yellow orange to crimson color. It is a perennial growing 15 to 60 cm high. It is an inflorescence with alternate leaves. The flowers bloom in early spring and often remain in full color throughout the summer.

Propagating it by seed is difficult. It is a partial root parasite that needs to planted with seeds of other plants. It prefers well drained soil with full sun. It can produce it's own food yet if malnourished it will parasitize off the roots of other plants. It grows slowly and is difficult to transplant. Sow in the fall for 1 to 2 months and plant in the spring.

The flowers are edible yet they must be eaten in small quantities. They will absorb selenium, a potentially toxic, alkaline mineral compound in the soil. Where high amounts of selenium in the soil is not present, Indain Paintbrush can be enjoyed in moderation with salads.

Various tribes used the flowering parts as a paintbrush. The Chippewa Indians are know the use Indian Paintbrush as a medicine to treat rheumatism and as a bath rinse to make their hair glossy. Both applications are useful due to it's selenium content. Stacey Sloan, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002

Indian Paintbrushes are most commonly found in cooler climates and they may be in North and Central America, Andes, and Asia. These plants rely on other plants nearby to live so they are rarely removed from their natural habitat. The plants, uppermost leaves display brilliant colors and are more eye-catching than their flowers, which are interspersed among the leaves. The Indian Paintbrush has a number of erect stems, about four inches to two feet tall (depending upon how much water the host plant gets) with a brightly colored red-orange 'head' on each stem that reminds one of a flaming paintbrush.

The leaves are narrow and undivided. The upper leaves may be dived into three to five very narrow lobes depending on the growth and maturity. Sandy prairies, mountains up to ten thousand feet, dry desert areas or places where there is some kind of water seepage, is where you'll find the Indian Paintbrush. It takes advantage of the dry, sterile soil conditions, and tries to remain near a water source. If not, it will attach itself to a plant that is capable of supplying water to it.

It is a perennial herb and blooms early spring to early summer. If someone was to plant the Indian paintbrush or try to propagate it near their home they must have their native plants to help them grow because they rely on them for water. For this reason it is a very hard task to undertake. The Navajos used these plants for medicinal purposes such as a contraceptive or to decrease the menstrual cycle. I would not recommend them for home landscaping.

Monica Maestas, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002

Indian Paintbrush is a rare plant in the world. Indian paintbrushes grow in the cooler portions of North and Central America, Asia, and the Andes. The plants, uppermost leaves display dazzling colors. Paintbrush comes in white color, magenta, purple, deep red, pale orange, and yellow, too. The color of this plant is mainly on the leaf bracts. The actual flowers are hidden beneath the red-tipped leaves. There are over two-hundred species of Indian Paintbrush in Western North America.

The Indian Paintbrush plant is from the Snapdragon or Figwort Family and is known as hemi-parasites or a root parasite. The only way for a Paintbrush to survive is to stick it's tubes, which are called 'haustoria' into the roots of a host plant. Here in the West, that could be sagebrush. They depend upon another plant for not only nutrients, but water, too. They are annuals. And remember, if you plant their seeds--they need a 'host' plant in order to survive, or they won't live. The height of a Paintbrush entirely depends upon the richness of the soil and how much water it gets. The more water, the better the soil, the taller it becomes. Obviously, this plant doesn't transplant well.

You can find Indian Paintbrush in sandy prairies, mountains, and dry desert areas. They bloom from April to June. The optimum soil temperature for germination is 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. They will germinate in 30-120 days. They can grow from anywhere from 8-24 inches in height. These plants require a good period of time to establish themselves.