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Monday, July 8, 2013

Paintbrush Update

About a month ago I planted 29 Castilleja seedlings, 19 of which are Castilleja sessiliflora and 10 are Castilleja integra. Each Paintbrush was paired with one of three different host plants: Fringed sage (Artemisia frigida), Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and Rocky Mountain Penstemon (P. strictus).

All of the host plants seem to be doing very well. Some of the initial seedlings planted do not look very healthy; however, if you take a closer look there appears to be a substantial amount of new growth underneath. So far the Castilleja sessiliflora paired with the Rocky Mountain Penstemon look the best. This pair has some new growth and others that look about the same. The total number of dead Castilleja is 3, all are Sessiliflora and all three have a different host plant. We do not know the reason for these deaths, but transplantation is often very stressful for plants. There is not enough information to say that one host plant works better than another at this point.

I had the opportunity to transplant wild Paintbrush from my parents’ property in Monument, Colorado. This experiment will allow us to see how robust these plants are and if transplanting is an option for growing. My parents dug up associated plants, as well, but we can’t tell which plant is the host (if any). These transplanted Paintbrushes gave the garden color and attracted pollinators as well as viewers. It gave the garden the aesthetics it was lacking. They flowered for about a month; a few are still flowering and hopefully they will all return next year. We are not advocating that anyone collect paintbrush or any other wildflower from land not your own! Because one species of Paintbrush (C. linariifolia) is Wyoming’s state flower, it is protected, so in this state it should not even be picked. 

The Colorado flowers are fading.  We think these are C. integra.

The third experiment I am trying is to grow Paintbrush from seeds. It takes Castilleja seeds around 60-90 days to germinate and requires a cold treatment to break dormancy. We placed Castilleja angustifolia and Castilleja chromosa seeds in the refrigerator on April 11, 2013, and they are just now germinating. I planted them in a plug tray to see if they will sprout, and then hopefully plant them outside. 

These tiny seedlings are C. chromosa, one week after planting.

All of these plants are found near the South doors to the Berry Center. It is not very colorful at this time because they are not flowering. Come by and check them out for yourself and see if you can tell the difference between the Castilleja sessiliflora and the Castilleja integra.

 Written by Jenna Ramunno, Biodiversity Institute

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