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Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja indivisa
Common names: Indian paintbrush, Texas Indian paintbrush, Entireleaf Indian Paintbrush, Texas Paintbrush, Scarlet Paintbrush
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Habit: Showy annual or biennial grows 6-16 in. high with several unbranched stems that form clumps with bright-red or orange, paintbrush-like spikes in spring. Flowers are actually inconspicuous and greenish, but are subtended by showy, red- tipped bracts. They sometimes produce a light yellow or pure white variation mixed in with the reds. Together, the flowers and bracts form 3-8 in. spikes.

Roots of this plant will grow until they touch the roots of other plants, frequently grasses, penetrating these host roots to obtain a portion of their nutrients. Transplanting paintbrush may kill it. It has a reputation for being unpredictable. In some years, when bluebonnets (which flower at approximately the same time as Indian paintbrush) are especially colorful, paintbrush will have only an average flowering year. Other years, paintbrush is spectacular.

Notes: Castilleja is an unusual member of the Scrophulariaceae, the snapdragon family. Its vivid “flower” color is actually provided by bracts – not flower petals - which are grouped around and under each of the inconspicuous flowers located on the upper third of the plant. Distribution

Culture: AR , LA , OK , TX. Native Distribution: OK, TX & LA. Native habitats include prairies, plains, meadows, pastures, savannahs, woodlands, edges, opening and roadsides. Water Use: Medium. Light Requirement: Sun. Soil Moisture: Dry. Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8). Soil Description: Sandy soils. Sandy Loam, Sandy, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay.

Propagation: Seeds. Seed in open, sunny sites. Indian paintbrush seed may require a cold wet period in the winter to germinate. Plant the seed in the fall and rake it into loose topsoil to ensure good seed/soil contact. Seeds are exceptionally small (4 million seeds per pound), commercially available, depending on the previous year’s seed crop and can be expensive. Recommended seeding rate in 1/4 pound per acre. Seed Collection: Seeds are formed in capsules at the base of each flower. Seed capsules may be carefully collected by hand April – May when the capsules are dry and brown.


Maintenance: After flowering ceases, allow seeds to completely mature before mowing for reseeding or collecting to plant in a new area. It is essential that this species be allowed to reseed for an abundant display for the following year.

Uses: Wildflower meadows, shortgrass meadows, attracting wildlife such as Hummingbirds, butterflies and nectar-insects.


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