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Castilleja coccinea (Scarlet paintbrush)
Brundage, Stephanie

Castilleja coccinea

Castilleja coccinea (L.) Spreng.

Scarlet Paintbrush, Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Painted Cup, Indian Paintbrush

Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Synonym(s): Castilleja ludoviciana

USDA Symbol: caco17

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

1-2 ft., upright, hairy, annual or biennial with showy scarlet bracts which nearly hide the small greenish flowers. Flowers hidden in axils of scarlet-tipped, fan-shaped bracts and arranged in a dense spike. Leaves divide into three, narrow lobes.

The conspicuous, red-tipped bracts appear to have been dipped in paint. This genus of more than 200 species is especially common in the western United States. Purple Painted Cup (C. purpurea), with purple or violet bracts, occurs from southwestern Missouri to Texas. Great Plains Paintbrush (C. sessiliflora), found from Alberta east to Manitoba and south to Illinois, Missouri, and Texas, has green bracts. Pale Painted Cup (C. septentrionalis) has whitish or creamy bracts, often suffused with bronze or dull purple, and is found from Manitoba east to Newfoundland and south to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan, and Minnesota.


From the Image Gallery

35 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Annual
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 28 inches tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Red , Pink , Orange , Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , WI , WV
Canada: MB , ON
Native Distribution: MA to s.e. Sask., s. to n. FL, MS, LA, e. OK & e. KS
Native Habitat: Moist to dry prairies; meadows; roadsides

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Damp, sandy soils.
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.


Use Medicinal: Amerindians used weak flower tea for rheumatism, "female diseases", as a love charm in food and as a poison.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Castilleja coccinea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Castilleja coccinea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Castilleja coccinea


Record Modified: 2022-10-28
Research By: TWC Staff

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