Desert Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja chromosa or angustifolia

Desert Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja chromosa or angustifolia

Color: Red-orange

Common name: Desert Indian Paintbrush

Latin name: Castilleja chromosa or angustifolia


Height: 12 to 18 inches

Description: Castilleja chromosa/angustifolia has bristly gray-green to purple-red herbage. What looks to be flowers are actually the colourful red-orange bracts that hide the tubular yellow-green flowers that have a thin coat of white hairs.

Leaf: The 20–70 mm linear/lance-shaped leaves are lower down the stem from the colourful bracts and are comprised of 3 or 5 narrow fingerlike lobes.

Range: ne San Bernardino Mountains, Great Basin Floristic Province, Mojave Desert

Habitat: Dry sagebrush scrub, pinyon/juniper woodland

Elevation: 1000–3000 m.

Flowering time: May–Sep

Notes: This Desert Indian Paintbrush is not limited to the desert alone, often growing well above the desert and sage landscapes into pinyon/juniper woodlands. It is partially parasitic on the roots of other plants. Castilleja chromosa/angustifolia, a dicot, is a perennial herb that is native to California and is also found outside of California, but is confined to western North America. There are more than 30 species of Castilleja in California. Distribution outside California: to Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico. This plant was photographed in the San Bernardino Mountains near Cactus Flats with a Canon EOS 30D and 100mm macro lens.

Desert Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja chromosa or angustifolia

We have an online wildflower field guide that is designed to help you identify desert wildflowers by color, scientific name, region and common name. The pictures are sized to work on the iPod, iPhone, iPad and similar devices. With your iPod or phone you will easily be able to identify wildflowers while in the desert. Links for downloads are on the bottom of the Wildflower Field Guide page.

Photo tips: Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.

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