Indian Paint Brush:
Delightful Display from Partial Parasite

By William T. Hathaway
Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja coccinea)

The Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja coccinea), or “Painted Cup,” is bound to attract your attention as you pass that patch of gleamy-red color in the moist meadow. It is interesting that the color is conspicuous due to the closely spaced individual plants in the colony. The floral bracts reflect the red color, rather than the actual flower which is embedded at the base of the bracts.

Much to the dismay of an enthusiastic plant gatherer, Dr. Harold N. Moldenke in his book American Wild Flowers indicates that the Indian Paint Brush is usually a partial parasite on the roots of other green plants and therefore cannot easily be transplanted into a garden unless all of the surrounding sod is taken also.

Sighting this little species for the first time was a memorable event for those of us on a field trip to Floyd County, Virginia.