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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Castilleja coccinea (L. ) Spreng.

Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon Family)

Common Name:

Indian paintbrush

06/23/2002

Indian paintbrush is a native biennial or short-lived perennial that grows in damp sandy prairies, cedar thickets or fens, in full sun. Green and yellow flowers, hidden in the axils of three-lobed scarlet-tipped bracts, bloom from June through August .  Indian paintbrush is hummingbird pollinated. 

Like many species in the snapdragon family Indian paintbrush is a partial parasite -- itís green and photosynthetic, but its roots need to attach to the roots of other plants to obtain water and nutrients before the plant can mature.

Plants grow to 60 cm tall on erect purple stems with fine hairs. Basal leaves are long in rosettes and the stem leaves are stalkless with three to five narrow lobes.

Flowers are bilaterally symmetric, narrow tubes 2 to 3 cm long.  Typical flowers in the family have five petals fused to form a 2-lobed upper lip over a 3-lobed lower lip, 4 stamens and an ovary with two lobes.  Mints -- another large family with bilaterally symmetric flowers -- have 4-lobed ovaries. Pale Indian paintbrush, with yellow bracts, is similar.  Many more species occur further west.

  • Origin of the name: Castilleja, for the Spanish botanist, Domingo Castillejo; coccineus, L., scarlet
  • Range:  Eastern N. Amer., New England to s. Manitoba, s. to TX, FL
  • WI Range:  Statewide, except over granite bedrock in the Northern Highlands
  • Common associates: big-bluestem, juniper, mountain mint
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FAC
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: 6, WI; 8, Michigan; 10, Chicago Region
     
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