Still flowering at this time of year, the flamboyant Indian paintbrush, Castilleja coccinea (also seeds can be collected) has one of the best common names given to a wildflower – someone must have watched the colourful leafy bracts reflecting red-orange paint strokes over the blue sky!
Many species with seeds adapted for wind dispersal have various helping ‘devices’ (wings, hairs…). In the case of Castilleja, the seeds have a honeycomb outerlayer – nature’s design for helping with the process. The honeycomb pattern is produced by dead, air-filled cells of the single-layered seed coat. Castilleja coccinea seeds (This is as close I could get with my camera and please ignore the debris)
About the germination:
I intend to include Castilleja in a small flower meadow, so I gather this info and I shall experiment. The difficulty is to start a small population because like other hemiparasitic plants it needs its host plants to help it grow. Mostly behaves as a biennial, and in most cases if successful, it will reseed around.
Various studies had shown that C. coccinea will establish connections with the roots of a wide range of host species. It will germinate by itself but it won’t establish and grow well without a host. The best method is to sow it outdoors in the spring (it is a warm germinator) in an area where few preferred plant host are growing (most common: little bluestem, prairie smoke, grama grass…) or in pots in combination with seeds/young seedlings of the host plants (use peat or coco-fiber pots as it dislikes transplanting).
Also, other essentials factors for good germination and survival are good moisture and surface sowing (light sensitive).
I showed at some point another beautiful Castilleja, C. applegatei var. viscida in a mountain meadow from the Wasatch Mountains.