Deer in Spring Landscape

Indian Paintbrush

photo of Indian Paintbrush
Indian paintbrush, Castilleja coccinea
Photograph by Richard Wiegand

Surprisingly, the beautiful color of this annual is not due to its flowers. Its beauty comes from brilliant scarlet bracts, specialized leaflike parts that surround and hide the red and yellow flowers. It is these somewhat jagged, colorful bracts that have earned the Indian paintbrush its name.

Indian paintbrush is partially parasitic, meeting some of its energy needs through photosynthesis like other green plants, while its roots also rob its plant neighbors of food supplies. Considered highly rare in Maryland, the wildflower is known from very few sites, primarily along streams and in moist meadows in the mountains. Indian paintbrush is at its colorful peak in the State in late spring and early summer.

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