Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

I've been looking for Indian Paintbrush, a flower common to woods, meadows, open slopes, and roadsides, for a long time. I remember seeing it as a kid on camping trips with my parents, but so far this is the first sighting here near our Powell Lake home. I found my first specimen in the middle of a dry, rocky streambed.

Also known as Common Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), it is the most common species in the region. They grow with erect stems up to 80 centimetres tall with narrow pointed leaves. The flowers (future seed bodies) are actually small and beak-like, hidden and outshined by the clusters of bright red pointed bracts surrounding them.

Common Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

Indian Paintbrush blooms from late spring to mid-summer. While the most common colour is red, they also come in rose, yellow, orange, and white based on the species. It is partially parasitic. Paintbrush plants use their roots to drill into adjacent roots to derive a portion of their water and nutrients.

I used Roadside Wildflowers of the Northwest by J.E. Underhill (Hancock House, 1981) to help confirm that my find was Indian Paintbrush. It was another of my thrift store finds. It’s a small book of photos organized by colour with brief descriptions. I like guides with photographs rather than illustrations. They make identifications more accurate I think. -- Margy


  1. I used to see a lot of these in Tweedsmuir Park. Now, not so many. The fire may have killed the roots they depended on.

  2. What fun! I love that bright spot of colour.

  3. I don't think I have ever seen these before. It is quite pretty and the color pops on these images.

  4. My human had a cabin at Green Lake in the Cariboo when she was a young girl. There was Indian Paint Brush everywhere there. Her mother tried to bring some back to their garden in outskirts of Vancouver but they never transplanted well. So if my human ever wants to see them again, she knows where to go. =^,,^=