Featured in Wildflowers of North America – March 25, 2011
Trying to truly identify Indian Paintbrush is very difficult, since there are many varieties. I hope I an correct with this one. If anyone thinks it is not Western Indian Paintbrush, please let me know.
Photographed in Waterton National Park, Red Rock Canyon Rd., Alberta, Canada.
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS1
Castilleja sulphurea, commonly known as Indian paintbrush or Prairie-fire, is a genus of about 200 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants native to the west of the Americas from Alaska south to the Andes, northern Asia, and one species as far west as the Kola peninsula (Europe). These plants are classified in the family Orobanchaceae (following major rearrangements of the order Lamiales starting around 2001; sources which do not follow these reclassifications may place them in the Scrophulariaceae). They are hemiparasitic on the roots of grasses and forbs.
The flowers of Indian paintbrush are edible and sweet, and were consumed in moderation by various American Indian tribes as a condiment with other fresh greens. These plants have a tendency to absorb and concentrate Selenium in their tissues from the soils in which they grow, and can be potentially very toxic if the roots or green parts of the plant are consumed. It should be avoided as food if found growing in highly alkaline soils, which will increase the selenium levels in the plants. Indian paintbrush has similar health benefits to consuming garlic if only the flowers are eaten in small amounts and in moderation.1
The Chippewa Indians used a hairwash made from Indian Paintbrush to make their hair glossy and full bodied and as a treatment for rheumatism. The high selenium content of this plant has been cited as the reason for its effectiveness for these purposes. Nevada Indian Tribes used the plant to treat venereal diseases and to enhance the immune system. Various other tribes used the plant as its name suggests — as a paintbrush .