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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 04, 2012

From: Grawn, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Grasses or Grass-like, Wildflowers
Title: Invasive Indian paintbrushes in Grawn MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have lots of Indian paintbrushes crowding my lawn and taking over the grass..what kills it without killing the grass?

ANSWER:

When we searched our Native Plant Database for the genus Castilleja (paintbrush), we found 49 species of that plant, of which two, Castilleja coccinea (Scarlet paintbrush) and Castilleja septentrionalis (Labrador indian paintbrush) were native to Michigan. The Scarlet paintbrush is native to Grand Traverse County, as seen in this USDA Plant Profile Map.   Castilleja septentrionalis (Labrador indian paintbrush)   is not, USDA Map. These are not necessary facts to address your problem, we just like to know what plants we are talking about.

You can follow each plant link to read our webpage on that particular species. You will learn that it can be an annual or a biennial, meaning it blooms the second year after it is planted. From our webpage on Castilleja coccinea (Scarlet paintbrush) (which read by following plant link above):

"Conditions Comments: Roots grow until they touch the roots of other plants, frequently grasses, then penetrate the roots of these host plants, obtaining a portion of their nutrients. Transplanting paintbrush usually kills it."

The genus Castilleja (paintbrush) is considered hemiparasitic, which means it attaches itself to other plant roots to get nitrogen. In Texas, paintbrushes frequently appear with Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), which is a nitrogen-fixing plant in the soil. We are just guessing that the ones in your yard are getting their nitrogen from your grass.

They are a beautiful native flower and we hate to encourage their destruction, but we understand you want grass, not grass and flowers. As you saw in the quotation above, they do not tolerate being transplanted, so we can't even suggest you find them another home. Being annual or biennial, and not capable of being transplanted, just keeping them from seeding will prevent their return. Of course, if there are other stands of the plant in the neighborhood, they will be replanted. This paintbrush blooms May, June and July, probably later in that timeframe as far north as you are. Simple mowing should suffice. You mow the grass anyway, we assume, so set the height down a little, and each time you mow you will destroy more of the seed-making apparatus. Or, you can start earlier in the year and pull the plants out before they even have a chance to start making seeds.

The paintbrush is a dicot, or broad-leaved plant; your grass is monocot, or narrow-leaved plant. There are specific herbicides for monocots or dicots, so you could theoretically spray a dicot herbicide to kill the paintbrush and not hurt your grass. However, sprays can easily light on other broad-leaved plants, like trees, shrubs and ornamental flowers you want to keep, having bad consequences. We suggest you stick with manual removal before the paintbrush goes to seed. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet paintbrush
Castilleja coccinea

More Invasive Plants Questions

Identification of invasive plant
March 26, 2010 - I have found an invasive plant species in Martindale, Texas that I would like to identify for family members. It is taking over their pasture and is difficult to eliminate. It has not bloomed yet but...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of tree in North Carolina
September 07, 2011 - I live in North Carolina have found a tree on our property that has thorny branches and round fruit (perfectly round) with a fuzzy outer layer that starts out green but then turns yellow. The inside r...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 02, 2011 - I have a plant that I would like to identify. It is a tall shrub/woody vine? (approx. 8-10 feet) that has very large thorns on its branches and stems. The stems remain green during winter. It loses it...
view the full question and answer

Snails in the ice plants in California
May 31, 2011 - Ice plants and snails. Every morning when I go outside I see at least 20 or more snails. Is there a certain way that I should have planted them that would have prevented them from destroying my plant?...
view the full question and answer

Removal of non-native invasive Ligustrum japonica from Austin
February 14, 2012 - I bought a house that I am slowly turning into a native garden, but as a teacher, I have a really small budget. One entire border of my backyard (30 feet) was planted with evil Ligustrum japonica. I l...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center