Paintbrush

The paintbrush is a herbaceous plant of genus Castilleja, figwort family, Scrophulariaceae. Most are perennial. The common name, Indian paintbrush, is applied to several species. About 200 species occur worldwide, mostly in western North America; 23 in Canada (one an annual). In Canada paintbrushes are most common in southern BC and Alberta, decreasing eastward to Ontario. One species is found from the Yukon and Mackenzie District to the Atlantic provinces (excluding Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). Paintbrushes grow on dry or wet soils, from low grassland to alpine meadows, usually in open areas, but also in thickets and forest openings. Stems are clustered and erect, arising from a curved base. Tiny, tubular, usually greenish flowers occur in a terminal spike, and each is concealed by an enfolding, modified, floral leaf (bract). Bracts (red through orange, yellow and purple to greenish white) form the showy, terminal "brush." Flowers and bracts appear June-August. The fruits are cylindrical capsules containing many seeds. Few species are botanically well defined, and most are not readily distinguishable because of hybridization. Paintbrushes are somewhat parasitic on roots of other plants and cannot be transplanted from the wild.