Small-flowered Paintbrush

Castilleja parviflora
Scrophulariaceae/Figwort Family

Small-flowered Paintbrush grows in subalpine and alpine meadows. The leaves are somewhat hairy and divided into 3-5 lobes. What looks like the flowers are actually modified leaves (bracts) enveloping the inconspicuous true flowers, which are green. The modified leaves are deep-pink to magenta and are clustered on the upper portion of each stem.

The most interesting thing about paintbrushes, is that they're root parasites. They have specialized roots called haustoria that grow into the roots of the other plants to steal water and other essential nutrients from a host plant. They're not a seriously aggressive parasite and could theoretically live on their own, but they definitely get a boost in fitness by feeding off a neighbor (who does suffer from the process).

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