Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Castilleja linariifolia

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Castilleja linariifolia Flowering by Chamisa 0693

On September 25th I was driving toward Durango, Colorado, on US 550 north of Bernalillo, New Mexico, when a spike of bright red by the side of the road loomed into and then out of my view. I slowed down, turned around, and went back to check out what it was (and to take photographs, of course). Thanks to George Miller of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico, I’m pretty sure it was Castilleja linariifolia, one of many paintbrush species in the United States. The plant whose flowers provided the bright yellow background was chamisa, which I’ll focus on (literally and figuratively) next time.

To learn more about paintbrushes in general and this species in particular you can read an informative article at Southwest Colorado Wildflowers. One thing I found out there is that the genus Castilleja has been moved from the family Scrophulariaceae to the broader Orobranchaceae.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2014 at 5:22 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Very dramatic image.


    November 5, 2014 at 5:54 AM

    • Saturated color is one route I’m happy to follow to drama, just as US 550 in northern New Mexico is one highway I’m glad to have driven.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2014 at 6:03 AM

  2. I enjoyed that linked article. I was surprised by the number of species, and by how different their appearance can be. This is an especially pretty one, and I like the way the chamisa is “rising up” behind it, like a sun.


    November 5, 2014 at 6:32 AM

    • Your last sentence reminded me of the 1932 Marx Brother movie “Horse Feathers,” in which Groucho plays Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff. Here’s how the Filmsite Movie Review describes the scene I suddenly remembered.

      “Wagstaff divulges the real reason he came to Huxley, to save his student son Frank (Zeppo Marx) from helpless infatuations and dalliances with females: ‘I came into this college to get my son out of it.’ Frank is seen sitting in the audience with a girl on his lap. Wagstaff calls out with a scolding: ‘Young lady. Would you mind getting up so I can see the son rise? So, doing your homework in school, eh?’

      Okay, not what you had in mind, but the mind is full of quirks and recollections.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2014 at 8:15 AM

  3. Oh, Castillejas are wonderful, aren’t they? This is a beaut. And so fun to say, too.


    November 5, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    • They are wonderful. They’re also deceptive, with many people mistaking the colorful bracts for flowers (the actual flowers being rather small and inconspicuous).

      Because I’ve studied some of the Romance languages, I pronounce Castilleja the Spanish way, with the ll acting as a y and the j being a throaty sound that English doesn’t have. Similarly, my pronunciation of Gaillardia is influenced by French: guy-are-dee-uh (while I’ve heard most Americans say gull-are-dee-uh).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      • Same here~ my father would never stand for llama being pronounced “lama”, and several years of French drummed proper pronunciation of beautiful French words like Gaillardia. In Illinois we have a town named Marsailles, and it is like nails on a chalkboard to hear the locals call their town MarSAYLS. ugh.


        November 5, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        • The proper response to the pronunciation “lama” is, following Shakespeare: Get thee to a lamasery.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 5, 2014 at 10:33 AM

  4. Stunning image. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    November 5, 2014 at 12:07 PM

  5. What a great fiery post!

  6. stunning color


    November 6, 2014 at 4:36 AM

  7. […] For mile after mile along the edges of many main roads that I drove in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona, I saw bushes with yellow to yellow-orange flowers on them. They turned out to be Ericameria nauseosa, known as chamisa, gray rabbitbrush, and rubber rabbitbrush (yes, like its cousin goldenrod, which blooms in the same season, the plant can be used as a source of rubber). I photographed this chamisa group on US 550 north of Bernalillo, New Mexico, on September 25th, when I stopped to check out the bright red paintbrush you saw last time. […]

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