Elegant Indian paintbrush – Castilleja elegans

Alaska Wildflowers | Pink

Elegant Indian paintbrush

Castilleja elegans

Common Names

Elegant paintbrush
Elegant Indian paintbrush
Red paintbrush


Castilleja pallida ssp. elegans



Genus: Castilleja
Family: Orobanchaceae
Order: Lamiales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

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For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

I did not find any documented food or medicinal uses of elegant Indian paintbrush. Other Castilleja (Indian paintbrush) species have numerous documented uses, especially in the Southwest United States (Castilleja – Native American Ethnobotany Database).

Identification and Information

Elegant Indian paintbrush (Catilleja elegans) is a variable color (usually pink) flowering perennial herb. It grows from a slender taproot and may have a below or above ground horizontal stem and a ground-level caudex. Plants may be solitary but typically have two or more stems. The aerial stems are 8-25 cm (3-10 inches) tall are unbranched, hairy, and usually reddish in color. The lanceolate, blade-like leaves can be green, green with a reddish-purple tinge, or reddish-purple, and also have a hairy surface.

The inflorescence is a single flower per stem. The flower is hairy and composed of a whorl of spreading bracts, a calyx of 4-5 fused sepals and 5 fused petals. The bracts and sepals can be white, yellow, yellow-green, pink, or a combination of colors. The petals can be white, yellowish, pink, or deep purple. It has 4 stamens of unequal length

Distribution and Habitat

Elegant Indian paintbrush can be found in Alaska, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, and Quebec. However, it might have a larger distribution, including the Canadian Rockies and even eastern Asia due to possible confusion with Castilleja raupii and Castilleja rubra (see the discussion in Flora of North America).

Castilleja elegans lives in numerous different types of environments such as wet, gravelly soils near lakeshores or rivers, and in dry or sandy soils on ridges, alpine tundra, meadows, and on south-facing slopes.

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RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae  (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae  (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta  (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta  (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilyOrobanchaceae  (broomrape)
                              GenusCastilleja Mutis ex L. f. (castilléjie, Indian paintbrush)
                                 SpeciesCastilleja elegans Malte (elegant Indian paintbrush)

References and Further Reading


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 23

Classification and Taxonomy

Castilleja elegans Malte Taxonomic Serial No.: 33111, ITIS Database

Castilleja elegans Malte elegant Indian paintbrush, USDA Database


Search string: Castilleja, Native American Ethnobotany Database

Map and Distribution

Castilleja elegans Malte, GBIF

Castilleja elegans: Elegant Indian-paintbrush, NatureServe Explorer

Description and Information

Castilleja elegans Ostenf., Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

Castilleja elegans Malte, Rhodora 36: 187. 1934., Flora of North America

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