Saturday, January 06, 2007

Flower Fest - I for Indian Paintbrush

"What are you taking pictures of?! That's a weed! Visit me in Illinois and I will show you the same thing in my backyard! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

He was joking, of course; mocking me in an attempt to keep me from lagging behind on one of our hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. He's a dear friend, too, which is one of the reasons why I did not throw the nearest rock at him. The other reason being that I had just laid eyes on a wildflower that I had never seen before. I didn't know if it was a flower or if what I was looking at was a complex set of leaves which enclosed a flower. I am so glad I stopped to take pictures because what I had found was the Indian Paintbrush.

And, according to Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, I was kind of correct that the flowers are "actually leaf-like parts, the bracts and sepals. The flower petals themselves are fused in a long, narrow tube that is often greenish-yellow and tipped in the same color as the showy bracts and sepals. The reproductive parts protrude from the tube."

The Indian Paintbrush is parasitic in nature. It taps into the roots of a host plant for its nutrients. I first realized I had taken pictures of the Indian Paintbrush when I came across it in a plant catalog for plants native to Colorado. It is often sold with a plug of blue gramma grass, another Colorado native that does well in the dry semi-arid conditions. While generally not recommended for normal landscaping, the Indian Paintbrush finds its place in xeriscaping.

The Indian Paintbrush blooms in late spring and through summer. It does well in hot desert like conditions, in full sun and sandy soil. It is found in montane and subalpine regions of Colorado. I think that the Indian Paintbrush in my pictures is Castilleja miniata, the second most commonly found species.

There is a wonderful native American legend behind this flower. The genus takes its name "Castilleja" from Domingo Castillejo, Spanish botanist and Professor of Botany in Cadiz, Spain who lived in the 1700s.

Flower Fest - the A-Z of FlowersThis is my first entry for the letter I in the Flower Fest - the A - Z of Flowers.

Flower Fest is the brainchild of Nature & Me and Sree. Every two weeks, the focus will be on a letter of the English alphabet. The current letter is I. I am submitting photographs of flowers as my entries.

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3 introspections:

Anonymous January 10, 2007 9:21 AM  

Manisha - You are so lucky to be able to hike into wildflower spots.

Manisha January 11, 2007 10:49 PM  

Priya, I can't wait for spring to come. I still haven't seen the Columbine which has a short period in which it blooms. I also want to see the alpine carpet of flowers at 12K feet. I have a lot to do this year! Colorado rocks! (I'll just pretend that this winter didn't happen!)

Anonymous January 15, 2007 12:43 AM  

One of the interesting things about the Indian Paintbrush is that you can pluck the green protruding area and taste the sweetness the flower contains inside. Apparently, as a whole, they are fully edible in small quantity as well.


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