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Desert Paintbrush

Scientific Name:

Castilleja chromosa


Herbaceous Plant


Dry bushy slopes and sagebrush scrub


Western U.S.A.


Secure (NatureServe)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Desert paintbrush brightens up the sagebrush from April to June. The showy ‘flower petals’ are actually 3 to 5 lobed bracts, the yellow green flower is tucked between the bracts. The bracts of desert paintbrush can range from red, through orange to yellow. Desert paintbrush plants are hairy and can look slightly grey/brown in color. The leaves are narrower than the ‘flower’ bracts, they have 3 to 5 narrow fingerlike lobes.

Fast Facts:

  • Desert paintbrush, like many other species within the Castilleja genus, is a hemiparasite. This means it can grow on its own but does better when it parasitizes the roots of host plants. 

  • Desert paintbrush was used by the Navajo to make a drug to aid gastrointestinal problems.

  • Here in the Truckee Meadows, desert paintbrush can be seen in Hidden Valley Regional Park. 

  • Desert paintbrush is also known as northwestern paintbrush.



Emma Wynn (research, content, and photos)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

May 12, 2021 at 8:36:00 PM

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