Painting With a New Brush

Texas Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Of the three Indian paintbrush I found blooming at the Brazoria refuge on January 6, this was the most vibrant and fully developed, with its small, greenish flowers easily visible among the glowing red bracts.

Like other beloved spring wildflowers, particularly bluebonnets and pink evening primrose, Indian paintbrush won’t begin spreading across the land for another two or three months. Still, it’s not uncommon to find isolated blooms as early as January, and this isn’t the earliest I’ve found. Although somewhat stunted and less colorful, another paintbrush had contributed to nature’s artistry on January 5 in 2018.

Comments always are welcome.

56 thoughts on “Painting With a New Brush

  1. The species of Indian Paintbrush found here in Ontario is Castilleja coccinea, but we are sure not to find any in January – today it is minus 13 degrees C. It is interesting that in all the references I have I cannot find C. indivisa as a unique species.Perhaps it has been elevated from subspecies to full species in recent taxonomic revisions. It is in any event an extremely attractive flower.

    1. It may be that C. indivisa doesn’t appear in your references because there are so many species, and this one is native primarily to Texas and Oklahoma. Interestingly enough, my own references don’t include C. coccinea. You can see the range of both on this BONAP map.
      My favorite field guide shows five paintbrush species in Texas, while the BONAP map shows twelve. Some have quite limited range, of course, due to the wide variety of conditions in our ecoregions.

  2. People speak metaphorically of painting something with a broad brush. This one is a not-so-broad brush; as you pointed out, large sweeps of these aren’t due to paint the landscape for a couple of months yet.

    1. On this same day, I found one stem of seaside goldenrod in full bloom, and one pink evening primrose. It occurred to me that I’d caught the wildflowers both going and coming.

    1. I don’t need to tell you how big Texas is! The significant differences in regions helps to explain the early blooms down here, and the slow leave-taking of other flowers. There still are a few asters and some goldenrod left over from the fall, and in the sunny areas I’ve already seen crow poison and oxalis. I do hope we get some good, cold weather soon, but I never realize how color-deprived I’ve betgun to feel until I spot something like this.

      1. Good point, about color deprivation:) I don’t know about “crow poison” and will have to look that up. One of my daughters lives closer to Hill Country, and I know the temps can be MUCH different there!

  3. We have Indian Paintbrush in our yard, and here in the Big Bend it blooms as early as January, and I’ve found new blooms as late as October while mowing. It runs the gamut in colors, but mostly I find red, orange, maroon, light yellow and off-white.

    1. What a variety you have. I’ve seen a few of the yellow and white, but I’ve never seen the maroon. You’ve reminded me of your remarkable bluebonnets, too. What month tends to be the peak of your blooms (understanding, of course, that things can vary from year to year)?

  4. Seems too early, but then, it always does! Lovely shot, Linda. The color of the paintbrush is so vibrant: red, but with something else and you captured it well.

    1. It does seem too early, particularly since my internal calendar seems to be stuck somewhere around mid-October. This was a needed to reminder to start paying attention. A blogging friend in Wharton mentioned that she’s already been seeing a few anemones in her area. Spring is lurking, even if it retreats for just a little while — as I hope it does.

  5. Hard to believe some of these beauties are blooming this early, Linda, but the proof is in the photo. I don’t suppose you’re getting sleet and such today?! I remember seeing extensive fields of wildflowers on the stretch between Dallas and Denton once (I think it must have been April). I wanted to hop out of the car and experience ALL of them! Thank you for assuring us that winter won’t last forever!

    1. No sleet today — it’s 70 degrees. Check with me in a week or two. This time of year, it’s a roller coaster here as warm and cold fronts battle it out with one another. It’s just the way it is.

      To be honest, I’m not surprised to see these early blooms. Three or four years ago after a hard January freeze, I found daisies blooming at the refuge. Granted, there weren’t many, but there they were: tough and resilient leftovers from the late fall blooms. By February, we always have a variety of flowers beginning to appear — and we’re halfway through January. Of course, you know the sign of real spring: leafed-out pecan trees. From the looks of the pecans, we’re still a good way from spring.

  6. So many different types of plants are becoming confused with the different temperatures. We’ve had record heat (cool wave though today) and my hydrangea, told it would bloom spring and/or summer already has small blooms developing!!

    1. I was talking with a friend in Kansas City recently, and we were laughing about the fact that here on the Texas coast, we were thirty degrees colder than KC. It has been odd, to say the least. The ones who really get nervous are the fruit growers, who watch their trees burst into bloom, and then begin hoping against hope that a late freeze doesn’t get them. We’ve had those freezes as late as March, so you never know.

      Here on the coast, where the water helps to moderate temperatures in winter, it’s not unusual to find the first spring flowers in January, and some, like Turk’s cap, will bloom all winter long. Granted, there won’t be many for a while yet, but the first ones always are fun to see.

    1. Thank you, Liz. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s always fun to find the first ones of the year. With its brilliant color, this one wasn’t hard to find.

    1. I just looked at your forecast and see you not only have cold, you have snow — and a winter weather advisory. It makes me shiver just to read such things. On the other hand, I’m a little short on the scarves, mittens, parkas, and so on that make conditions like that perfectly bearable. Keep that nose covered–we don’t want it to turn red as this flower!

    1. I’ve glanced at your photos already, Curt, and I confess I was a little surprised to see your landscape looking like Minnesota. Too early, indeed, for the flowers — but not too cold to take out the camera!

  7. What an early find! I too have seem them out of season, but usually a summer straggler than this early. Still think February will give us a whallop the first week or two.

    1. Traditionally, December is fog month down here on the water, but it dallied this year, and it’s only been the past couple of weeks that we’ve had sea fog forming. That suggests that you’re exactly right, and the cold January weather will show up in February. We’ll see. I’d be happy to have a nice stretch of cold weather, particularly if its dry and sunny. The good news is that the hill country’s received some good rains over the past few days — a bit of hope for the wildflowers.

    1. It’s a wonderful red, and it does shine in the sunlight. Even when the plants still are small and hidden among the grasses, they’re easy to spot. Cardinals look great against snow, but these look pretty good against prairie grasses, too.

  8. It has always seemed odd to me when plants bloom out of season. But apparently there is the odd one here and there. I like this pic a lot and I have always liked the paint brushes especially when there is a clump or many individual flowers sprinkled among a field of bluebonnets. I suppose that plants are like people- there will be renegades that dwell among us . I sort of think the out of season bloomers as renegades.

    1. I always remind myself that, just like daylight saving time, the ‘seasons’ are human constructs. While it’s true that a given flower, like the paintbrush, usually comes into the fullness of its bloom later in the year, there’s no reason that a few can’t show up earlier, especially if they have just the right conditions.

      I like your thought of these outliers as ‘renegades.’ Personally, I thought of these Indian paintbrushes as ‘scouts’ — sent on ahead to check things out for the rest of their kind!

  9. So much seems to be out of season. We are now getting some rain and it feels surreal after such a long drought. I realise it is a wet substance that can be prevented from making one wet by holding up an umbrella.
    Have been following the weather conditions in Texas and as it is winter there I am amazed by the differences in temperature during nights and days. No wonder you have such a variety of plants as the weather gives almost all plants to have a go and flourish.

    1. Even the media here were celebrating your rain. Perhaps the most amusing report I saw was an ABC video of calves who’d never experienced rain running and leaping like little children — their delight was obvious.

      I was thinking about the size of Texas, and got curious. It’s roughly 875 miles across Texas, while it’s 2044 miles from Sydney to Perth. Sydney to Melbourne is only 444 miles, while from my place to Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle, is 556 miles. That’s another reason our plant life is so varied. Winter in the Panhandle means cold, snow, and ice, while here on the coast, we tend to be above freezing most of the time, although we can be damp and dreary. Out in west Texas, it’s desert and mountains, while east Texas is forest and bogs. That’s one thing that makes wildflower chasing in the spring so much fun — the bloom begins in the south, but moves north, and you can find spring flowers for weeks.

  10. This would certainly brighten any winter’s day, especially up here in the Northeast where our Spring ephemerals are still months away, mid April if we are lucky but mostly early May. Lovely portrait. None of these will be flowering here though as we are out of its range.

    1. Well, I just double-checked and it appears we do have them although I’ve never seen one and GoBotany fooled me as they are called Scarlet Painted-cap here. Now to hunt for them later this year.

      1. Huh. So much for extirpated, I guess. Here’s the BONAP map for the species. It shows the species as historic in Massachusetts, but ‘present and rare’ south of you. Apparently a few have slipped across the state line!

    2. I wondered if C. coccinea might make it up there, but I see it once was there, and departed. No matter; you have plenty of pretties to enjoy. I’m always pleased to see these anomalies, but I enjoy our brief tastes of winter, too. It’s certainly not too late for us to have a hard freeze, or worse.

      1. After I posted this comment I saw David Gascoigne’s mention of it being in Ontario which is why I decided to double check with GB. I figured if it could thrive in Ont. it should be able to handle our climate.

  11. What a beauty. I think this flower of yours is one of my favourites and so nice to see its brilliance right in the middle of the winter chill.

    1. This one had become tall enough that it could catch the sunlight nicely with its bracts, and it fairly glowed. We’re certainly not past winter, but from now until true spring there will be a few flowers braving the elements, and this is one of my favorites, too.

    1. I found another half-dozen paintbrush today, just where I thought they might be: alongside pull-offs at the edge of the Brazoria prairie. The land there is literally both high and dry — a perfect place for these plants. I do think that we’re due for a change, particularly since I saw fields filled with snow geese, Canadian geese, and assorted ducks today. I don’t know if they just came in with the last front, or whether they’ve just relocated, but it sure was nice to hear all that goose chatter.

  12. I saw pansies and flowering kale this weekend. Granted, they were planted and not in the wild, but oh, to see live blooms outdoors! This one is a little gem. I love seeing solo plants — look at me! I’m here, just waiting to give you a lift!

    1. I’m not surprised you saw those pansies and kale. They’re used a lot as winter bedding plants here, along with snapdragons, cyclamen, knockout roses, and something I think is called Nile lily, which really is an iris. But it is fun to find the wild ones, especially when they’re all by themselves, blooming and stretching in the sun.

      I hope your weekend was good, and that you didn’t come home to even more nasty rain!

    1. What a great place and time to be introduced to this beauty. I always enjoy seeing a single flower, and of course a field filled with them is glorious, but my favorite way to spot them is when they’re mixed, 50/50, with bluebonnets, and the fields seem purple.

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