Common Paintbrush, Desert Paintbrush, Painted Cup
Common paintbrush’ genus, Castilleja, is named for 18th century Spanish botanist Domingo Castillejo. Chromosa, meaning “color,” is a reference to the bright red flowerheads. If you’re interested in Castillejas, don’t miss Mark Egger’s superb photographic compilation on Flickr. See also this Castilleja comparison table.
Identification: Plants are less than 24" (60 cm) tall, sometimes as little as 4" (10 cm). Leaves are linear-lanceolate (long and narrow or shaped like a lance), composed of three to five narrow lobes, like fingers. They are ¾-2½" (2-7 cm) in length The intensely bright red (or red-orange or yellow) “flowers” are really bracts—modified leaves, each up to 1½" (3.8 cm) long. The real flowers are mostly hidden, tubular in shape, and yellow-green in color. They appear from May to September. Fruits are a two-chambered capsule. Unlike Castilleja angustifolia, this plant is found below 3200' (975 m); in fact, it is found below sea level, in Death Valley National Monument.
Castilleja chromosa at Mark Egger’s Castilleja site on Flickr
Castilleja chromosa on Northern Arizona Flora
Castilleja chromosa at the United States National Parks Service
Castilleja chromosa on Wildflowers, Ferns & Trees of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah
Castilleja chromosa at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Castilleja chromosa on the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment
Castilleja chromosa on DesertUSA: Exploring the Southwest
Castilleja chromosa on SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network
Castilleja chromosa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.