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Click to read about the Castilleja genus.

Castilleja chromosa

Castilleja chromosa

Castilleja chromosa

Castilleja chromosa

Castilleja chromosa (Desert Paintbrush) 
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, grasslands. Spring.
Butler Ruins Trail, Utah, April 22, 2015;
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 18, 2007 and April 19, 2016; and
Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, April 10, 2016.

Castilleja chromosa
Castilleja chromosa (Desert Paintbrush) 
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, grasslands. Spring.
Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area, Utah, April 23, 2006 and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 18, 2007.

Castilleja chromosa likes hot, dry, sandy soils. and rock crevices.  In the low desert early spring, thriving on these conditions, it is brilliant, nearly iridescent.  The red bracts and sepals of Castilleja chromosa are hairy and cupped,

and some bracts, sepals, and leaves are deeply cut into three lobes.  The plant often has a light purple tinge to its leaves and bracts.

"Chrom" is Greek for "color".  Aven Nelson named this species Castilleja chromosa in 1899 from a specimen he collected in 1898.  Nelson also named Castilleja angustifolia variety dubia in 1902Intermountain Flora observes, "until 1899 [C. chromosa] passed for the little-understood C. angustifolia.  The two are closely related and are sometimes difficult to distinguish.  If one chose to consider them conspecific [i.e., "the same species"], the name C. angustifolia var. dubia ... is available for  C. chromosa"Some modern botanists again maintain that the species shown here is not C. chromosa but is a variety of C. angustifolia.

The genus name, "Castilleja", honors Domingo Castillejo (1744-1793), Spanish botanist and Professor of Botany in Cadiz, Spain.  In the late 1770s Jose Celestino Mutis (who was born in Cadiz, Spain but spent most of his life in Columbia) named a new Columbian genus "Castilleja" to honor his countryman.  He sent the new species and name to Linnaeus' son who published the information in Supplementum Plantarum in 1781.  (More biographical information about Castillejo).

Castilleja chromosa
Castilleja chromosa  (Desert Paintbrush) 
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, grasslands. Spring.
Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area, Utah, April 23, 2006 and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 18, 2007.

Castilleja chromosa's vivid red color is not the flower; it is the modified leaves, the "bracts". The flowers in Castilleja chromosa (as in all other Castilleja) are actually very inconspicuous narrow, green tubes that can be seen projecting outward in the photograph at left at about 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock.  In the photograph below, the curved, hanging, bulbous stigma projects from the green tubular flower.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Castilleja chromosa