Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Browning of non-native Plectranthus in Dallas
November 28, 2010 - I live in Dallas and planted 'Mona Lavender' which is now brown and limp after overnight temps in the low 30's. Is it dead or will it come back? Do I need to cover these plants during the winter m...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Pride of Barbados from San Antonio
August 26, 2011 - I have some very successful wildly blooming "Dwarf Pride of Barbados" plants growing in my xeriscape garden. Each year I cut them back to the ground. I have just purchased a new variety called "...
view the full question and answer

Splitting bark on non-native mimosa from Buda TX
June 24, 2012 - What would cause my Mimosa tree to have splitting bark. I've only lived in this house for 8 months and am learning about this tree. The other tree seems fine. It looks as though it split and then ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Sago palm roots damaging house foundation from Keystone Heights FL
July 03, 2013 - Will sago palms roots hurt a house's foundation if too close?
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of non-native Royal Empress tree
April 23, 2009 - We want to plant some fast-growing trees for shade for my horses. My friend wants to use Royal Empress trees. Can you tell me if these are toxic to horses (and also goats)? I have a lot of clay in t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.