Castilleja coccinea (Indian Paintbrush)

Plant Info
Also known as: Scarlet Painted-cup
Family:Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
Habitat:part shade; sandy soil; fields, prairies, open woods
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are clustered at the top of the plant and at the end of stems arising from leaf axils near the top of the plant, though most plants are unbranched. Individual flowers are about ¾ inch long, tubular, green to yellow with a protruding style that often curves down at the tip. The bracts are showy and seem more petal-like, hairy, lobed in 3 to 5 parts, red to orange (rarely yellow) at the tip end and usually green at the base. Clusters are dense spikes that elongate as the plant matures.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] There are both basal and stem leaves. Basal leaves are oblong to egg-shaped, typically wither away by the time the flowers bloom. Stem leaves are to 3 inches long, alternately attached, stemless, and usually deeply divided into 3 lobes, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. Leaves and stems are hairy; stems are green or more often reddish brown.


Indian Paintbrush is partially parasitic. Host plants include various native prairie grasses, such as hairy grama and June grass, as well as other wildflowers. All of the Castilleja species were formerly in family Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) but have been reassigned to Orobanchaceae (Broomrape) along with other parasitic species.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken along highways in Aitkin County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Patsi - Bovey
on: 2011-04-18 12:54:07

When I was very young I lived there, back in the 40's.. Lots of beautiful red Indian Paintbrush

Posted by: Anita Huju between Effie & Togo
on: 2011-09-16 13:52:04

I have been wondering why we do not see the Indian Paintbrush anymore. In the 1960's there always seemed to be alot on the roadsides by Big Deer Lake by Effie.

Posted by: Angela - Red Lake State Wildlife Management Area
on: 2012-04-23 11:05:21

When stopping four wheeling trail side in many places along this area we saw many of these delicate and beautiful flowers. A beautiful place to find many wildflowers. Not a heavily used area with pretty good access if the trails are not too wet.

Posted by: Joyce - Stewart, MN McLeod Co
on: 2012-08-22 22:59:33

Growing up in Morrison County I saw these all the time, have never seen them here in McLeod Co.

Posted by: Keith - Mille Lacs Wildlife Area
on: 2014-05-20 15:01:22

I've found Paintbrush growing in the road ditches in the boundaries of the wildlife area and in many Mille Lacs County ditches.

Posted by: Darlene - Williams in Lake of the Woods County
on: 2014-07-17 23:34:27

They are growing in ditches by where I grew up. Love taking pictures of them. Great childhood memory.

Posted by: Ron - little falls
on: 2015-08-06 23:27:07

There is a large field of yellow indian paintbrush and just wondering how unusual that is

Posted by: el Tea - Grand Marais
on: 2017-07-28 03:31:30

My friend lives 15 minutes west of Grand Marais on an old homestead. Part of her property was cleared to grow hay few generations ago. In early summer it blazes with large swaths of Indian paintbrush, daisies, buttercups and clover that grow amid the Thomson hay. I have painted many paintings of those views. It

Posted by: Jennie - Aitkin
on: 2018-08-30 16:24:40

This year we have noticed quite a few Indian Paintbrush on our farm, in damper places like near ditches. Also along our county road.

Posted by: Thomas - Bemidji
on: 2019-01-22 21:07:45

Growing up in the 1970s we use to have all kinds of Indian Paint Brush plants in the meadow between our house and my grandparents place just a few miles NW of Bemidji. I've looked for them in the same area over the past few years but can't seem to find any anymore. Are they fragile? I'd love to find them there again, or re-seed the meadow with them. We also use to have showy Lady Slipper in the cool woods not more than a couple hundred feet from this same location, but I haven't seen one of them in years either! Sad!

Posted by: Heather - Zim
on: 2020-06-18 15:29:24

We have them right in our north pasture in Zim, N MN. They nearly glow during sunset.

Posted by: William Ramthun - Hillman
on: 2020-06-21 12:23:41

We have four patches about 10 square feet each on our lawn. They are orangish in color.

Posted by: Lois M. Bendix - Grand Rapids
on: 2020-06-24 10:25:42

I live on Prairie Lake near Grand Rapids. We have lots of this plant in the roadside ditches. I grew up in Winton, MN, where it grew in open areas near our house. Always brings back favorite childhood memories.

Posted by: Adam Heckathorn - Hibbing MN St Louis county
on: 2023-04-11 14:33:47

I used to live south of Hibbing second place on the left on county road 444. I had acres to mow and it was poor sandy soil so I didn't have to mow often. These would come up and bloom in between mowing right in the yard. They were quite common in the area.

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