Indian Paintbrush and Elegant Cat’s Ears

Today I revisited the Indian Paintbrush mentioned in my last post, to check it for diagnostic features of the species that it seemed most likely to be, Castilleja applegatei (Applegate’s Indian paintbrush, wavyleaf Indian paintbrush). Is this obsessive behavior? Maybe, but harmless. And I like it that trying to identify the plants we photograph makes me take a much closer look at them.

Castilleja with hand.jpg

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, there are 46 species of Castilleja known as “paintbrush” that are native to North America, and 17 are found in Oregon. The beauty above probably is wavyleaf Indian paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei; the wavy leaves are clearly visible in the photo, and it fits in other respects although different online sources vary on fine points. Is it the upper leaves that are often three-lobed, or the lower ones? Well, at first the narrow leaves of our plant seemed to have no lobes at all but when I uncurled the tip of an upper leaf, there were indeed three lobes.

Castilleja leaf.jpg

Lower leaves had no lobes.

The stickiness of flower and/or leaves that some describe was not evident today, but the flower is older and perhaps has dried out a bit. The flower and leaves are covered with tiny silvery hairs.

Castilleja hairs.jpg

Many Castilleja species are root-parasites, connecting to the roots of nearby grasses or forbs. They can live either independently or as parasites (a capability which makes them “hemi-parasites”) but naturally they grow faster and bigger when receiving some nutrients from a host plant. The individual in our pictures is small, perhaps because nothing much is growing near it to parasitize.

Castilleja wide view.jpg

The small whitish flowers to the right are elegant cat’s ears, Calochortus elegans; we’ve seen more of this species this year than ever in the 14 years we’ve lived here.

Elegant Cat's Ear Bud.jpg

The Pacific Bulb Society’s site has 8 pages of photos and descriptions of Calochortus species; well worth browsing as this genus of lilies is notable for stunning flowers.

Elegant Cat's Ear from above.jpg

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