PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Giant Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

Here’s one of the most treasured wildflowers of hikers in the Pacific Northwest, and there’s much more to this beauty than meets the eye. It is classified as a hemi-parasitic plant, which means it does not have the capacity to absorb nutrients efficiently and relies on the root system of another plant to get nutrients and water. Somewhere along the evolutionary timeline, Paintbrush decided it was just easier to invite itself to dinner at the neighbor’s rather than prepare its own food. If it has to, it can survive minimally on its own, but dinner parties and brunches next door are better. This does not harm the host plant at all. They are well adapted to serve a permanent guest.

Many other plants will serve as hosts, including: Fescues & other grasses, Penstemons, Thimbleberry, Osoberry, Yarrow, Alders, nearly anything native, really. You can find Paintbrush growing in open mountainside meadows, along the edges of forests, along trails, and in lowland prairies. It starts flowering in mid summer and can continue into autumn.

The plant is a discreet collection of stems rising 1-2 feet with loosely arranged narrow leaves bottom to top. Stems are topped with bright scarlet red poofs that look like paintbrushes. Flowers are high in nectar and hummingbirds & other pollinators love them.