Scarlet Indian Paintbrush

This weekend, Harland and I traveled to Missouri to visit my family for Mother’s day. Sunday morning, we made our way through the northern part of the state. As we passed a horse pasture we noticed a hill glowing bright red. We stopped for a closer look and discovered it was Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, a native plant.

I’ve seen a few scattered plants of it alongside the road in the past, but never an area of it this large. It covered the sides of two hills.

A few facts about this showy native:

  • Native Americans used an infusion of Indian Paintbrush flowers to treat colds and rheumatism. They also used it as a hair wash, and as a love charm by hiding it on the person they were interested in.
  • It is partially parasitic in that its roots grow until they reach the roots of other plants, frequently grasses, and then penetrate the roots of these host plants, obtaining a portion of their nutrients.
  • The flowers themselves are barely noticeable. The brilliant red comes from dense clusters of leaf-like bracts surrounding the flowers.

While we were taking pictures, a hummingbird flew in to dine.  It came within a few feet of me as I sat very still, and I got only one good pic before it flew away.

It was a gift to find such a display of nature’s beauty, and the hummingbird was an added bonus.