Sep 25, 2009

Castilleja miniata (Indian Paintbrush)

Latin Name: Castilleja miniata, etc.
Common Name: Indian Paintbrush, Red Indian Paintbrush, Harsh Paintbrush, Cliff Paintbrush, Small-flowered Paintbrush
Family Name : Figwort

The Northwest is a great place to catch several types of paintbrush. They are known for their bright red color, although it can vary from orange to scarlet to purple to even white or yellow. Their color comes from dense, bright bracts that surround the actual flower.

The Northwest is home to a wide variety of paintbrush, and identifying the different variations can require a good deal of examination. Unfortunately, the paintbrush shown in these photos are difficult to identify. Nevertheless, as you scroll through them, information about the different species can be found. These pictures were taken at Elk Meadows, Elk Cove, and Dog Mountain.

The Paintbrush evoked the Native American legend of a young brave who tried to paint the sunset with his warpaints. Frustrated that he could not match the brilliance of nature, he ask for guidance from the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit gave him paintbrushes laden with the colors he so desired. With these, he painted his masterpiece and left the spent brushes in fields across the landscape. These brushes sprouted the flowers we now so wonderfully love!

The most common paintbrush in the Northwest is the Common Red Paintbrush, aka Giant Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata). Its upper leaves are mostly whole (i.e. not lobed). Closely related to the Red Paintbrush are a variety of niche paintbrushes that are similar to the common paintbrush (e.g. Seashore Paintbrush and Alpine Paintbrush). Another showy variation is the Small-flowered Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora), found at alpine and sub-alpine meadows. C. parviflora is characterized by its upper leaves, which are divided into 3-5 lobes, the whole plant stands no more than a foot tall. In the North Cascades, the C. parviflora's bracts can even be white.

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