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Plants - Indian Paintbrush a/k/a Castilleja or Prairie Fire

 

Castilleja, commonly known as the Indian Paintbrush and also called Prairie-fire.

 

The flowers of Indian paintbrush are edible, and were consumed in moderation by various Native American 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. Highly alkaline soils 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.

 

The Ojibwe 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 sexually transmitted diseases and to enhance the immune system." ~from Wikipedia

 

Some tribes use it to stop menstrual flow.

Check out the wikipedia entry for various types of the Indian paintbrush.  They have many pictures included in the entry that have different coloration and types.

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The following is by S. James:

  "Once you see an Indian Paintbrush plant you'll probably want to transplant one into your garden. Although Indian Paintbrush is a very attractive native plant, it's very difficult to grow. The key to its success is the plant that you see next to it. Take a closer look at the plant nearest the Indian Paintbrush the next time you see one.

  Indian Paintbrush is a very bright and attractive native plant, however, it is not easily propagated. Transplantings of Indian Paintbrush are usually never successful and propagating from seed is challenging at best.

  Indian Paintbrush is considered to be a hemiparasite plant which means it needs a host plant in order to survive. The roots of Indian Paintbrush will grow until they touch and couple with the roots of a nearby plant. Once the roots of both plants are entwined, Indian Paintbrush will take nourishment and water from the host plant. Usually the host plant is a type of grass.

  There seems to be confusion over which host plants are best for Indian Paintbrush, however, it has been found hosting from native grasses, sagebrush, and oxeye daisies. The plant doesn't actually appear to be too picky in its choice of a host plant.

  If you really want Indian Paintbrush in your garden or yard, try your luck with seeds. Seeds are sold commercially and they're a bit pricey. Keep in mind if the packet of seeds are just Indian Paintbrush seeds, you'll need to mix some other seeds with the Indian Paintbrush seeds to allow for growth of a host plant. If you don't, you won't be successful at growing these difficult plants. Try mixing some native grass seeds for your area with the Indian Paintbrush seeds for a better chance at success. Some seed packets are mixed with other wildflowers or grasses and these are ready to plant.

  The best time to plant Indian Paintbrush seeds is in the fall as the seeds need a cold, wet period to germinate. The success rate is still low, but you may be lucky enough to have a plant or two emerge at some point. It's not unusual to wait more than a year for new growth to show as the Indian Paintbrush roots need to find a host plant first. That's their priority.

  You may also find a nursery that sells Indian Paintbrush plants along with a host plant, but again, the success rate for transplanting them is next to none. If they don't have a host plant with the Indian Paintbrush, ask for one. Although garden nurseries would love to cultivate and sell this native plant, most don't bother with Indian Paintbrush because of its low success rate.

  Indian Paintbrush is a native plant and there are over 200 species in North America. You will see scientific names like Castilleja integra and Castilleja coccinea to name two of the most popular species. This plant is found in all states in North America, although it's more common to see it in the southwestern and western states. The colors of this native wildflower vary from a bright orange-red to rose to yellow. Once in bloom, you can't miss the brightly colored Indian Paintbrush flower. You're most likely to see Indian Paintbrush while hiking west of the Mississippi.

  Originally, the Indian Paintbrush was considered to be in the snapdragon family. Its flower looks a lot like a snapdragon. However, upon closer scrutiny, scientists discovered that it needs a host plant to survive and moved the Indian Paintbrush into the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) where it is now classified.

  Indian Paintbrush is also an herb as the flowers are edible and many Native American tribes would eat them. One must be careful though because the leaves and roots of Indian Paintbrush are poisonous.

  Indian Paintbrush is one native plant that we'd all like to see in our yards. If you do find one in your yard, do not try transplanting it as you'll probably kill it. Instead, consider it a gift from Mother Nature and leave any Indian Paintbrush where you find it."

 

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