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Common Name: Autumn Paintbrush
Other Common Names: Narrowleaf Indian Paintbrush, Wyoming Painted Cup
Scientific Name: Castilleja linariaefolia
Family: Snapdragon Family (Scrophulariaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed in the Intermountain West
Habitat: foothill and middle montane habitats
Habit: perennial herb
Foliage Color: bright green
Leaves: Opposite, threadlike, entire
Flower Color: scarlet (rare forms are yellow)
Flower Form: narrow, beaked flowers to 1.5" long
Flowering Season: late summer to autumn
Cultural Requirements: Prefers full sun and average to well-drained soil. Overly rich soil will cause lodging. Fully cold-hardy. Drought-hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front) but somewhat tolerant of overwatering.
Culture: Readily grown from seed. Can be direct-seeded into a weed-free seedbed in late fall. Seeds are very small and must be sown on or near the surface. Seeds require 6-10 weeks of moist chilling to become nondormant, and they germinate freely in chilling. Plants produced as container stock and planted out in spring grow quickly, especially if potted up with another plant such as sagebrush for a few weeks before planting out. They may flower the first summer.
Uses and Notes of Interest: Autumn paintbrush, like other paintbrushes, often grows best in association with other plants. Hemiparasites ("half-parasites") like the paintbrushes attach their roots to the roots of a host plant and use it as a source of water. They make their own food through photosynthesis just like nonparasitic plants. Not all paintbrush species have been proven to be hemiparasites, but several Utah species, including this one, have been observed to grow best when planted with a companion in the garden. They are not fussy about hosts--just about any perennial herb, grass, or shrub will do. Plants may be cut back to the ground when flowering is completed. The ripened seeds are held in erect capsules and are easily collected when these split open at maturity.