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Montana Field Guides

Pallid Indian Paintbrush - Castilleja pallescens

Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:

External Links

General Description
Perennial. Stems erect, simple, 5–20 cm. Herbage puberulent. Leaves linear-lanceolate, 1–4 cm long, entire, upper often with linear lobes. Inflorescence puberulent to pilose; bracts green, yellow or purple-tipped, lanceolate with 1 or 2 pairs of narrow, lateral lobes. Flowers: calyx yellow,12–22 mm long, primary clefts slightly deeper adjacent to the galea, ultimate lobes acute, 0.5–3 mm long; corolla 16–21 mm long, galea 2–4 mm long, lower lip 2–3 mm long (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Castilleja is a difficult genus because hybridization and allopolyploid speciation (containment of multiple sets of chromosomes that are derived from different species) fuzz a species’ characteristics (Giblin et al. [eds.] 2018).

To identify Castilleja species, it is important to (Giblin et al. [eds.] 2018):
* note colors of the bract, calyx, and corolla while in the field, and
* press many bracts, calyces, and corollas separately to show their shapes.

Pallid Indian Paintbrush - Castilleja pallescens, native:
* Bracts are green to yellow or purple-tipped. Calyx is yellow.
* Upper third of the stem with green, often with linear lobed leaves, or at least the central lobe is linear.
* Lobes of the calyx are cleft more deeply in front and back than compared to the sides.
* Ultimate calyx lobes are acute to acuminate.
* Galea is 2-4 mm. Lower corolla lip is 2-3 mm. Thus, lower lip is more than half the length of the galea.
* Inflorescence with puberulent to pilose hairs.
* Montana plants occur in valleys to alpine zones.

Snow Indian Paintbrush - Castilleja nivea, native:
* Bracts are yellow to purple-tipped and woolly-villous.
* Upper third of the stem with green, lobed leaves.
* Lobes of the calyx are cleft to about the same length.
* Inflorescence villous-tomentose.
* Montana plants occur in the alpine zone (turf and fellfields).

Parrot-head Indian Paintbrush - Castilleja pilosa var. longispica, native:
* Bracts are green to yellow or purplish.
* Upper third of the stem with green, lobed leaves.
* Lobes of the calyx are cleft to about the same length.
* Inflorescence with puberulent to sparsely villous hairs.
* Montana plants occur in montane to subalpine zones.

Species Range

Range Comments
Oregon to Montana, south to Nevada and Wyoming (Lesica et al. 2012).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 82

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Grasslands, sagebrush steppe, fellfields, open forests, and woodlands from the valleys to alpine zones in Montana (Lesica et al. 2012).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Cronquist, A., A.H. Holmgren, N.H. Holmgren, J.L. Reveal, and P.K. Holmgren. 1984. Intermountain Flora: Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 4, Subclass Asteridae (except Asteraceae). Bronx, NY: New York Botanical Garden. 573 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Grove, A.J. 1998. Effects of Douglas fir establishment in southwestern Montana mountain big sagebrush communities. M. Sc.Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 150 p.
    • Jones, W. W. 1901. Preliminary flora of Gallatin County. M.S. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State College. 78 pp.
    • Simanonok, M. 2018. Plant-pollinator network assembly after wildfire. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 123 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Pallid Indian Paintbrush — Castilleja pallescens.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from