Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Paintbrush in northern New Mexico

with 32 comments

Driving south from Colorado a year ago today, we couldn’t help noticing the rich red of some paintbrushes flowering healthily on the dry ground of northern New Mexico. I can’t tell what species of Castilleja this one was because several grow in the area.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 9, 2018 at 4:38 AM

32 Responses

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  1. ooohhhh !!!


    June 9, 2018 at 4:41 AM

  2. I always think WEST when I see the paintbrush. I like to say INDIAN Paintbrush, but I just looked it up and
    saw there were 200+ varieties and also called Prairie Fire. I like that, too. I also like to capitalize certain
    flower names. Some may be humble, but I want them to get attention. (I also think the names of seasons
    should be capitalized since the change of seasons means so much to me.) Your photo is true to the
    colors, rich in hue, and almost palpable. I went to Utah and NM last Oct. and missed the blooming.
    I saw a few cactus but that was all.

    Dianne Lethcoe

    June 9, 2018 at 7:23 AM

    • I knew immediately that this was some kind of paintbrush, but I had no idea which species it was. Like you, I found out there are zillions of them. Whatever species this was, its colors were indeed a joy to behold.

      Capitalization in English is capricious. The language used to capitalize all nouns, now only some. Why seasons are no longer capitalized but months still are is a mystery. Birders have gone crazy recapitalizing the names of birds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2018 at 7:21 PM

  3. The phrase “the same, but different” was the first thing that came to mind. These are recognizable as paintbrushes, but the ‘bristles’ aren’t quite so neatly arranged — they look as though they could drip bits of that glorious color here and there.


    June 9, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    • You said it just right: the same, but different. One benefit of getting familiar with native plants in one place is that you can sometimes spot a sure relative in a distant place. Getting from genus to species is often a chore. Whatever this species was, its color was definitely glorious.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2018 at 7:36 PM

  4. Wow…so vivid! Love this vibrancy!!


    June 9, 2018 at 7:44 AM

  5. This is one incredible photograph! One of my favorite wildflowers!

    Agnes Plutino

    June 9, 2018 at 7:45 AM

  6. Very pretty, and very different from the Castilleja that grow here.


    June 9, 2018 at 10:18 AM

  7. This is the one that I have never seen bloom before. I mean the genus. It is supposedly one of the most common wildflowers in North American, and there are native specie here, yet I have never seen it in bloom. If I had, I did not know what it was.


    June 9, 2018 at 4:51 PM

    • I remember you mentioned that once, and it surprised me, given how widespread the species in this genus are. Your time will surely come.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2018 at 7:49 PM

      • Well, now I am watching for it. I know it is nearby, although not exactly near here. It may not be in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but could be in the Diablo Range that extends down the East side of the Santa Clara Valley. I don’t mean that it is in the mountains, but in the meadows between the mountains.


        June 9, 2018 at 10:23 PM

        • Or maybe you’ll travel to another state before you find a paintbrush locally.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 10, 2018 at 5:36 AM

          • I have been out of California only a few times in my life. (Of course, I have been around within California as much as people in the east get around in several adjacent states.) As a kid, I remember hearing about Indian paintbrush in Oklahoma. I do not know if it was the same thing, or the same genus, but I remember it as a mythical flower from an even more mythical place; perhaps like edelweiss in the Alps. It was something that grew out on the prairies like poppies used to grow here. If I have a choice as to where I encounter it, I would prefer to see it in southeastern Oklahoma, even more than finding it in the East Hills near San Jose.


            June 10, 2018 at 10:20 AM

            • California is larger than New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and all of New England together.

              Sounds like you’re due for another trip to mythical Oklahoma.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 10, 2018 at 10:17 PM

              • Not only is it bigger, but it is much more diverse in regard to terrain and climate. That is why so many movies and television shows were filmed here a long time ago. The climate here is very different from the coast, and very different from the Santa Clara Valley, and very different from so many other regions in every direction, but just a few miles away. That is something that I noticed about driving to Oklahoma. We noticed very minimal differences over vast areas. The western edge of New Mexico was surprisingly similar to the eastern edge. The flora of northern Texas was indistinguishable from that of central Oklahoma. The entire state of Oklahoma has less diversity of climate than my small neighborhood. Yet, I still want to go back.


                June 10, 2018 at 10:29 PM

                • California is indeed a land of enchantment, even if New Mexico has taken that phrase as its motto. I was glad to have made it back to California for a visit two years ago after an absence of more than two decades. You’re fortunate to live in such a scenic and diverse state.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 11, 2018 at 5:37 AM

                • Well, although I do not plan on ever leaving, I thought that those in Oklahoma were fortunate to live in a place where they can afford to . . . live. Almost all of us live in squalor here, and those of us who did not buy homes decades ago can never afford to do so.


                  June 11, 2018 at 9:01 AM

  8. These are lovely by whatever species you care to call them. They were a rare sight in California. Or, at least in the areas I frequented.


    June 11, 2018 at 6:21 AM

  9. Beautiful!!


    June 11, 2018 at 7:32 AM

  10. One of my favorite flowers, Steve. We have various subspecies of paintbrush in Colorado, too.


    June 11, 2018 at 2:19 PM

  11. So vibrant Steve … beautiful 🙂


    June 13, 2018 at 2:10 PM

    • “Vibrant” is a good description of a paintbrush. I’m fortunate that one species is common in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2018 at 9:04 PM

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