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

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

Something eating Monarda didyma in Washington DC
June 30, 2011 - Please Help, I have a couple of Bee Balm, Jacob Cline, plants, whose leave are being eaten, by what I do not know. None of the nurseries around here seem to have ever heard of this happening to this p...
view the full question and answer

Yellow and purple wildflowers for a wedding in Burgettstown PA
August 10, 2010 - I'm not sure exactly what I am looking for and I'm sorry if its too much to ask but....I want to have a fun relaxed wedding next June or July time. I can't find wildflowers that would bloom during...
view the full question and answer

Digging wild buttercup from roadside in Mechanicsville MD
May 28, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, is it illegal to dig out wild buttercup in Maryland? I see them along the dirt road or just in the ditch. Since buttercup considered weed, I'm wondering what the law say about this...
view the full question and answer

Bluebonnets for wedding centerpieces in Ft. Worth
April 14, 2009 - I am looking to purchase 25 live bluebonnet plants for my wedding centerpieces. I need them by May 15, 2009. Do you sell them?
view the full question and answer

Shearing Pink Skullcaps
September 21, 2014 - My pink skullcap plants keep dying. The ones that are still alive are about 3 years old, but have large sections of dry twigs. Do I shear them and hope they come back or are they gone? I live in Helot...
view the full question and answer

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