Wildflowers - Paintbrush

Castilleja species
Figwort family
What it looks like:

Paintbrushes are one of the showiest western wildflowers. While the various species can be difficult to tell apart, paintbrush is easily distinguished from other wildflowers. Showy flower spikes grow Colorful yellow, red, or pink bracts surround small, inconspicuous flowers. Paintbrush grows in clumps from a woody root crown. The flowers grow in dense spikes at the ends of 1 to 2-foot tall stems. The tips of the leaves may be brightly colored as though they were dipped in paint -- hence the common name. In most species, plants are covered with very fine hairs.

Scarlet paintbrush, Castilleja miniata, is widespread in our region and blooms from June through August. Scarlet paintbrush has red to scarlet bracts and unnotched lance-shaped leaves.

Where it grows:

Paintbrushes can be found in moist to dry soils, from the desert to ridges above treeline. Of the nearly 200 kinds of paintbrush in western North America, about two-dozen species occur in the northern Rocky Mountains. Scarlet paintbrush is found along forest streams and moist meadows at mid-to subalpine elevations.

What's in a name?

Castilleja is named for the 18th century Spanish botanist, Domingo Castillejo. The species name miniata is derived from “minium” the red lead paint used to paint illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages (also the source of the word “miniature”).

<photo> paintbrush plant in a rocky habitatInteresting Facts:
Paintbrushes are semi-parasitic. They tap into the root systems of nearby plants for nutrients and water. This increases the ability to tolerate dry conditions and expand their geographical range. However, they can survive without a host plant.

The flowers have no scent but bees and hummingbirds are attracted to the color and abundant nectar supply at the base of the flower tube.

Wyoming paintbrush (C. linariifolia) is the state flower of Wyoming.

Edible and medicinal plant values are furnished as historical information only.
We are not encouraging harvesting native plants for food and/or medicine.