Castilleja rubida

The plant featured in today's Botany Photo of the Day, Castilleja rubida, is a member of Orobanchaceae (broomrape family), which consists of about 90 genera and more than 2000 annual and perennial herbaceous or shrubby species. These species are distributed broadly throughout the world, but are particularly concentrated in the temperate regions of Eurasia, North America, and South America. All members of the family are in some capacity parasitic, and—variously capable (hemiparasitic) and incapable (holoparasitic) of photosynthesis—they appropriate nutrients from their host plant by way of specialized haustoria, which are long fungal cells that (in the Orobanchaceae) extend out from the roots. A consequence of this parasitism is that several of the family’s species hold a sort of inverted economic importance, perpetually threatening to damage or even kill economically remunerative crops should the latter momentarily lose the protection of normally watchful farmers and gardeners.

Castilleja, commonly called Indian Paintbrush or Prairie-fire, is a genus of about 200 herbaceous annual and perennial plants native to western areas of North America and to northeastern Asia. In 1917, Oregon declared Castilleja linariifolia its state flower. Though plant roots and green tissues tend to concentrate high levels of toxic selenium from the surrounding soil, the flowers of Castilleja species do not (or at least do not to the same degree), and when consumed in moderation they make a healthy and sweet-tasting addition to salads and sandwiches. Plants also have a history of medicinal application, as Native American tribes have used extracts from Castilleja species in hair-washes, as an immune system enhancer, and in treatments for rheumatism.

Just over 13 years ago, Mark Egger took today's photo on the southern slopes of the Matterhorn in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area of Oregon's Wallowa Mountains. Notice the small flowers pressing out from in between the rich purple of the bracts.

Thanks, Mark, for such a lovely image. (Original)

Click here to access Mark's other photos of C. rubida, as well as his helpful description of the species.

Castilleja rubida

9 responses to “Castilleja rubida”

  1. Rose

    Wow! I was in the Wallowa Mountains near Wallowa lake backpacking last month, but may have to return for another trip! Its always great to learn about plants in my general area. Thanks for the motivation 😉

  2. Alina

    Besides Western North America, and NE Asia, Castilleja is also native to the Andean highlands (at least to Ecuador). And the plants are also, as beautiful as the ones found here!

  3. Emily Schiller

    That’s a stunning photo. Beautiful composition. And a fascinating plant. Thanks!

  4. Mark Egger

    Reply to Alina: You are very correct! The Andean Castillejas are wonderful, especially in Peru, and as far south as N Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Peru has the most species. Alina, please e-mail me, as I would love to learn what you know which species you have seen. You can reach me at:

  5. He Who Lives With Yankees

    So, this is kinda like mistletoe?

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you as always a very good read

  7. hanneke Bennett

    Mark, your pictures are AWESOME! I looked through your slideshow and am totally impressed with your photography! Can you tell me what camera and lens you used for those? Those are the kind of pictures, close-ups, that I like to take, too.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Quin

    speaking of Orobanchaceae it’s about time that there is some order established among the scrophs (thanks apgII?) – this lovely photo of a north american – i too have had the good fortune of enjoying the andean cotributions to this genus – my, my

  9. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Gorgeous colour — wonderful photo — lovely detail, those silver hairs …

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