En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Thursday - March 01, 2007

From: Van Alstyne, TX
Region: Hawaii
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Avoiding planting Indian Paintbrush in Hawaii because of invasiveness
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

My daughter is living in Hilo, Hawaii. For her birthday, her boyfriend ordered her some Indian Paintbrush seeds. Trying to be sure she grows them correctly in a pot, she found instructions that say Paintbrush needs a "host plant" to be successful. What would be a good host plant for her to use? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Parasitic plants come in several flavors. Among them, there are obligate parasites, which must parasitize a host plant in order to survive and receives all of its nourishment from the host plant. These plants typically lack chlorophyll. There are facultative parasites which will opportunistically parasitize a host plant given a chance, but can survive and complete its life-cycle without a host. These plants are often called hemiparasites or hemiparasitic plants.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) is typical of this group of plants. It can and will parasitize neighboring plants via root connections if living in close proximity, but will also grow and reproduce on its own if no host plant is available. The various species of Indian Paintbrush native to Texas often parasitize plants of the grass family (Poaceae), but they really aren't particularly picky about who their hosts are and will attach themselves to and draw nutrients from any number of plant species. Indian Paintbrushes growing with the assistance of a host plant will almost invariably outgrow a sibling without such benefits. Likewise, a host plant parasitized by a Castilleja will normally suffer quite noticably.

One species, Castilleja arvensis, native to Mexico, Central and South America has naturalized in Hawaii where it is found in association with, and parasitizing the Hawaiian native plant Dubautia scabra. Ecologists consider it invasive in Hawaii. Other Indian Paintbrush species could be similarly ill-mannered in the Hawaiian paradise.

We would urge your daughter to exercise great care and help protect the fragile Hawaiian ecosystem by ensuring her non-native species does not escape from cultivation. She can do this by using her flowering Indian Painbrush stems for cut-flowers and never allowing them to make seeds, or she could simply choose to not plant the seed at all and avoid the risk. After all, no one wants to be the source of an ecological disaster.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Problems with non-native Bradford pear in Austin
May 16, 2009 - Hi, I planted a Bradford Pear tree about five years ago, and half of it is not filling out with leaves very well. Then about a month I noticed leaves here or there curling brown and dying, and causin...
view the full question and answer

Non-native lambs ears wilting in heat from Fredericksburg TX
October 19, 2011 - 3 days ago I had professional landscaping done in an area with plants that tolerate heat & sun well. We planted 7 healthy, large lambs ear & mulched. Everything planted is doing well except the lambs ...
view the full question and answer

Can lantana be grown in British Columbia from Vernon BC
October 20, 2012 - Can I grow lantana in Vernon B.C. Canada?
view the full question and answer

Use of non-native Indian Mustard for reducing lead in soil
February 07, 2007 - The EPA phytoremediation documents say lead contamination can be reduced with Brassica juncea: "Successful Reduction of Lead Contamination. Phytoextraction was demonstrated at a site in Tren...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of giant ragweed in Austin
October 25, 2008 - How can I get rid of a large field of giant ragweed? Part of the site is a steep slope, which is difficult to mow. I want to encourage native grasses but they are crowded out by the ragweed.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center