Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Suppport the plant database you love!

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
4 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

Plants for a moist, wooded area in North Carolina
December 06, 2014 - I am looking to plant some native flowers in a wooded area in Surry County NC. The chosen location is fully shaded beside a creek. The water table typically sets about 2 feet below the surface of th...
view the full question and answer

Germination of Passiflora incarnata seeds
May 28, 2006 - I wish to purchase the Passionflower incarnata plants. I have found seeds, but they say they are very hard to start. I lost my very large vine and wish to replace it.
view the full question and answer

Butterfly Plants for Chicago
September 13, 2014 - I live near Chicago, IL and am interested in planting a butterfly garden. Not sure when to start, but I want all native plants that would attract butterflies. Can you please let me know which plants ...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower field for sewage leach field from Olga Washington
August 01, 2012 - I am interested in planting a large native wildflower field at a resort in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. It would be over a sewage leach field for many cabins and bathrooms. Are there any ...
view the full question and answer

Sunflower with large, thick, fuzzy leaves
February 03, 2005 - Hello Smarty Plants: I live in Green Mt. NC and am a Master Gardener Volunteer in Buncombe County (Asheville). In summer several years ago we visited a garden which had a beautiful sunflower with lar...
view the full question and answer

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