Castilleja, commonly known as paintbrush, 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 in northwestern Russia. These plants are classified in the broomrape 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 generic name honors Spanish botanist Domingo Castillejo.[2]

Castilleja miniata
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Orobanchaceae
Subtribe: Castillejinae
Genus: Castilleja
Mutis ex L.f.

About 200, see text


Euchroma Nutt.
Gentrya Breedlove & Heckard[1]



Castilleja species are eaten by the larvae of some lepidopteran species, including Schinia cupes (which has been recorded on C. exserta) and Schinia pulchripennis (which feeds exclusively on C. exserta), and checkerspot butterflies, such as Euphydryas species.[3][4] Pollinators aid these plants in reproduction, with insects visiting the flowers, as well as hummingbirds for some species.[5]

Castilleja species can play an important role in plant community dynamics and multitrophic interactions. For example, Castilleja hemiparasitic reliance on other plant species may affect competition and dominance among other plant species in its community.[6] Additionally, the foliage of some Castilleja species naturally contains defensive compounds that are sequestered in the tissues of larvae of specialist insect species that have developed a tolerance for these compounds and are able to consume the foliage.[3][4] These sequestered compounds then confer chemical protection against predators to larvae.[3][4]


Seeds of putative Castilleja levisecta × Castilleja hispida hybrid

Some species in the Castilleja genus are able to hybridize, especially when ploidy levels match, and hybrids may produce viable seed.[7][8][9] This hybridization potential has been identified as a threat to the genetic integrity of certain endangered Castilleja species.[8]



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, though only if the flowers are eaten in small amounts and in moderation.[10]



Castilleja linariifolia is the state flower of Wyoming.[11]

Selected species

  Castilleja affinis Coast Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja ambigua Paintbrush owl's clover
  Castilleja angustifolia Northwestern Indian paintbrush
Castilleja annua Annual Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja applegatei Applegate's Indian paintbrush, wavyleaf Indian paintbrush
Castilleja aquariensis Aquarius Plateau Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja arachnoidea Cobwebby Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja arvensis Field Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja attenuata Narrowleaf owl's clover
Castilleja beldingii
  Castilleja bella Arteaga Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja brevistyla
  Castilleja campestris vernal pool Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja caudata Port Clarence Indian paintbrush
Castilleja cervina Deer Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja christii Christ's Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja chromosa Desert Indian paintbrush, desert paintbrush
  Castilleja cinerea Ashgray Indian paintbrush
Castilleja citrina Lemon paintbrush
  Castilleja coccinea Scarlet Indian paintbrush, Scarlet painted-cup
  Castilleja cusickii Cusick's Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja densiflora
Castilleja ecuadorensis
Castilleja elata
  Castilleja elegans Elegant Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja elmeri Elmer's Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja exserta Purple owl's clover, purple Indian paintbrush, exserted Indian paintbrush, escobita, formerly in Orthocarpus
  Castilleja foliolosa Texas Indian paintbrush[12]
Castilleja fruticosa
Castilleja fulva Elko Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja grisea
Castilleja guadalupensis (extinct)
  Castilleja hispida Harsh Indian paintbrush
Castilleja hyetophila Coastal red Indian paintbrush
Castilleja hyperborea Northern Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja indivisa Entireleaf Indian paintbrush, Texas paintbrush
  Castilleja integra Wholeleaf Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja integrifolia
  Castilleja kaibabensis Kaibab Indian paintbrush
Castilleja kerryana
  Castilleja lacera
  Castilleja lanata Sierra woolly Indian paintbrush
Castilleja lasiorhyncha
  Castilleja latifolia
Castilleja lauta Rosy paintbrush
  Castilleja lemmonii Lemmon's Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja levisecta Golden paintbrush
  Castilleja linariifolia Narrowleaf Indian paintbrush
Castilleja lindheimeri Lindheimer's paintbrush
  Castilleja lineariiloba
  Castilleja lutescens Stiff yellow Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja mendocinensis
  Castilleja miniata Greater red Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja minor Smallflower Indian paintbrush, lesser Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja mollis Softleaf Indian paintbrush
Castilleja mutis
  Castilleja nana Alpine paintbrush
  Castilleja neglecta Tiburon Indian paintbrush
Castilleja nubigena
  Castilleja occidentalis Western Indian paintbrush
Castilleja ophiocephala
  Castilleja pallescens Pallid Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja pallida var. lapponica Boreal Indian paintbrush
Castilleja paramensis
  Castilleja parviflora Small-flowered Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja parvula
  Castilleja peirsonii Peirson's paintbrush
Castilleja pilosa
  Castilleja plagiotoma Mojave Indian paintbrush
Castilleja praeterita
  Castilleja pruinosa
  Castilleja pumila Lancetilla del Páramo
  Castilleja purpurea
  Castilleja raupii Raup's Indian paintbrush, Raup's painted-cup
  Castilleja rhexiifolia Rhexia-leaf Indian paintbrush, splitleaf Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja rubicundula Cream sacs
Castilleja rubida Purple alpine paintbrush, Wallowa alpine paintbrush
  Castilleja rupicola Cliff Indian paintbrush
Castilleja salsuginosa Monte Neva Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja schizotricha
  Castilleja septentrionalis Labrador Indian paintbrush, northern paintbrush
  Castilleja sessiliflora Downy Indian paintbrush, downy paintbrush
Castilleja socorrensis
  Castilleja subinclusa
  Castilleja suksdorfii Suksdorf's Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja sulphurea Sulphur Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja tenuis Hairy owl's clover
  Castilleja thompsonii Thompson's Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja tolucensis
  Castilleja unalaschcensis Alaska Indian paintbrush
  Castilleja victoriae Victoria's owl-clover
  Castilleja wightii Wight's paintbrush
Castilleja yukonis Yukon Indian paintbrush


  1. ^ "Genus: Castilleja Mutis ex L. f." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2006-03-30. Archived from the original on 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  2. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. Vol. I: A-C. CRC Press. p. 455. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
  3. ^ a b c Haan, Nate L.; Bakker, Jonathan D.; Bowers, M. Deane (14 January 2021). "Preference, performance, and chemical defense in an endangered butterfly using novel and ancestral host plants". Scientific Reports. 11 (992): 992. Bibcode:2021NatSR..11..992H. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-80413-y. PMC 7809109. PMID 33446768.
  4. ^ a b c Haan, Nate L.; Bakker, Jonathan D.; Bowers, M. Deane (May 2018). "Hemiparasites can transmit indirect effects from their host plants to herbivores". Ecology. 99 (2): 399–410. doi:10.1002/ecy.2087. JSTOR 26624251. PMID 29131311. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  5. ^ Benda, Christopher. "Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)". United States Department of Agriculture.
  6. ^ Schmidt, Natalie (2016). Parasitic plants and community composition: how Castilleja levisecta affects, and is affected by, its community (PDF) (Doctoral dissertation). University of Washington. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  7. ^ Babikova, Zdenka; Gilbert, Lucy; Bruce, Toby; Dewhirst, Sarah; Pickett, John A.; Johnson, David (April 2014). "Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and aphids interact by changing host plant quality and volatile emission". American Journal of Botany. 99 (12). JSTOR 23321298. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  8. ^ a b Strategy and Guidance for Minimizing Hybridization Risk of Castilleja levisecta (CALE) with Castilleja hispida (CAHI) While Advancing Conservation of CALE and Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori; TCB) (PDF) (Report). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. 2021. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  9. ^ Loretta Fisher; Jonathan D. Bakker; Peter W. Dunwiddie (2015). An Assessment of Seed Production and Viability of Putative Castilleja levisecta × C. hispida Hybrids (Report). Center for Natural Lands Management and University of Washington. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.4327.2081. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  10. ^ Tilford, Gregory L. (1997). Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Mountain Press Publishing. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-87842-359-0.
  11. ^ Wyoming Statute 8-3-104 (Title 8) Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Castilleja foliolosa (Texas Indian paintbrush)". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved March 9, 2013.

Further reading