Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum

It’s likely I’ve expressed in the past my love/hate relationship with this genus. Love to be in their presence, love to photograph Castilleja, but hate to identify them. I’m hoping I have the identification correct in this case. I wrongly assumed all of the paintbrushes that looked like this at the high elevations of Steens were the same taxon, but the key in Flora of Steens Mountain suggests otherwise.

Wavy-leaved paintbrush is found in western North America. The variety pinetorum is native to Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and California, where it grows in dry places. Depending on the reference, at least a few other varieties are sometimes recognized in the Great Basin area. On Steens Mountain, Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum is commonly found growing in association with sagebrush at higher elevations (above 2000m (6561 ft)). Having visited Steens Mtn three times in the past 4 years, 2007 seemed to have been a banner year for the local population with thousands of individual plants dotting the landscape. This photograph is from 2009, though, when plants were more often found in small pockets of the landscape.

Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany Database lists this taxon as being used as a beverage by the Miwok peoples, who occasionally sipped the flower for its nectar, something I suppose I will have to try on my next occasion to visit the area.

Like other members of its genus, Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum is a hemiparasite (via haustoria). Though it does not to parasitize to survive (the species is chlorophyllous, after all), parasitizing other species can produce more robust, longer-living plants. In the case of Steens Mountain, I suspect the host plant is typically Artemisia tridentata, or big sagebrush.

Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum

15 responses to “Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum”

  1. Wendy Cutler

    Speaking of paintbrushes, that’s quite an artistic picture. Was there some sort of paintbrush post-processing applied to the background, taking care not to distort the bee or whatever that flying creature is?

  2. Veronica

    I agree with Wendy, the photo is magnificent … the insect in suspended animation. Would make a beautiful print Daniel.

  3. Daniel Mosquin

    No, the background — and perhaps more importantly, foreground — effects are “as seen through the lens”. This is a full-frame (no crop) image, using my typical processing method of sharpening and contrast improvement (my photos in-camera are flat and dull, as I don’t let the camera do the processing, preferring instead to use my own judgment later with software). Atypically, I removed / altered two small distractions at the base of the in-focus flowering stem. In retrospect, the one on the left side of the stem could have probably been ignored, but the one on the right (a distraction caused by reflective glare on the leaf whiting out that area and creating a small sliver of white that draws the eye) was altered so that the leaf was instead put in the same shadow at its base as at the top of the leaf.
    Here’s the original image as taken with the camera, no processing (other than the necessary conversion from AdobeRGB space to sRGB).

  4. dori

    Yes, I was about to comment on the beautiful dreamy photo. I hope you do make a print of it.

  5. Alexander Jablanczy

    Like colourisation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
    Except that this works.

  6. Mark Egger

    Actually, this is more likely Castilleja peckiana. Both species are not uncommon along the road from Fields to the summit ridge of Steens Mt., but in that area, for some unknown reason, most if not all of the C. applegatei var. pinetorum plants are atypically yellow-bracted, while C. peckiana is reddish-orange, as seen here. That being said, color in Castilleja is so notoriously variable that I would hesitate to say conclusively that this is C. peckiana. Unfortunately, the best character to separate the two in the pubescence — not visible in this photo. C. applegatei is heavily stipitate-glandular in the herbage, while C. peckiana is puberulent to villous but not glandular. Overall, I would vote for this being C. peckiana, but, unless you have a specimen or some additional. more close-up pics, I’m afraid this photo cannot be determined definitively. I’d be happy to examine any additional material you might have to try & nail down the ID…

  7. Daniel Mosquin

    The best photo I have of the hairs. What do you think, Mark?

  8. Bonnie

    When I saw that beautiful photo I figured you had a macro setting in use on the camera. Love the hairs and colors on the second photo.

  9. Love Albrecht Howard

    THE PHOTO IS MAGNIFICENT! It is so beautiful, I actually did something I’ve never done before: copied the image and made it my wallpaper. Honestly, it’s like an amazing impressionist painting. Glorious – thank you!

  10. Eric Simpson

    Let me add to the parade of praise on this one, Daniel: c’est magnifique! I love paintbrushes (and have the art degree to prove it;-). And I love the bee. This may be the most painterly of your non-abstracts yet – appropriate given the subject. The upper portion in particular reminds me of my own work in colored pencils. I’d tell you to “keep up the good work”, but I’m afraid that would be a step down for you!-)

  11. Mark Egger

    OK, this is better — the bract on the lower right shows with reasonable clarity the dense understory of stipitate-glandular hairs, making it reasonable certain that this is NOT C. peckiana and confirms your original ID as C. applegatei var. pinetorum. If you make another trip to Steens, look for peckiana also — it is usually a little lower elevation than the C. applegatei pops, but they DO overlap as well at about 6,000′
    Anyway, nice photos, and the bee was of interest, as I saw many bees on C. peckiana when I was there & have several photos on my site of bees collecting nectar from them. While hummers are certainly there as well, the predominance of yellow applegatei on Steens MAY represent a pollinator shift or flexibility. That is, of course, totally conjectural, but it could make an interesting field research project for a botany or plant ecology student!

  12. Gabrielle

    Oh my goodness….this photo gives me new heights to aspire to with the camera!
    Thank You!

  13. elizabeth a airhart

    i would think you would enter the photo in a contest and win it

  14. Elizabeth Revell

    I’ve read of Paintbrush, but never seen it. What an image … I’d hang that on my wall any time! You can lose yourself in it for hours.

  15. Eric in SF

    Daniel – this is quite simply the best image I’ve seen you post in all the years I’ve been following BPoTD. Kudos.
    Elizabeth – Mark forgot to link to his Flickr photostream. He’s a world expert in Castilleja and has been photographing them for decades.

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