En Español

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

Sunday - March 29, 2009

From: Boston, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Parasitic paintbrush
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

Many years ago I tried to grow some paintbrush seedlings with some seeds you sent me and found it difficult. Based on pictures in the literature I noticed that paintbrushes do not seem to affect their hosts as drastically as other parasites. Lupines and paintbrushes look well together. From your experience is this correct?

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.

Castilleja indivisa (entireleaf Indian paintbrush) 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.

... and, yes, lupines and paintbrushes look terrific together.


Castilleja indivisa


Castilleja indivisa
 

More Wildflowers Questions

First flower of the year from Tallahassee FL
August 20, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, What is the first wildflower to bloom in the North Florida area each year? I appreciate your knowledge and attention to all the questions you are asked.
view the full question and answer

Visiting Texas for bluebonnets
December 29, 2004 - I know rainfall amounts in the winter affect the blooming of bluebonnets in the spring. I am thinking about visiting Texas this spring. What should I be looking for in rainfall amounts? I will watch...
view the full question and answer

Survival of wildflowers after Hurricane Irene in Perkasie PA
September 03, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, We have (had) a beautiful row of wildflowers and sunflowers along the one side of our house. Now that Hurricane Irene has passed, most of the flowers are matted down from the wind...
view the full question and answer

Interested in planting wildflowers in the area of Paige, TX.
November 02, 2010 - Interested in planting wildflowers in the area of Paige, TX.
view the full question and answer

Spanish name for bluebonnet
May 14, 2008 - What is the Spanish name for bluebonnet? They were in Texas before any other Europeans and must have named the flower. I cannot find it anywhere.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center