Grazing Oklahoma: Indian Paintbrush

By Mike Proctor

Characteristics:
Indian paintbrush has brightly colored bracts, which are modified leaves directly below a flower. The bracts provide most of the plant’s color, while the flowers themselves are much less apparent.

Indian paintbrush is an annual forb that grows in a wide range of habitats including native rangelands and disturbed areas. This species prefers full sunlight but is not particular about soil types.

Germination may occur in fall or early spring. Mature fruits contain about 300 seeds.

These seeds are so tiny that it would require about four million of them to make a pound. While most have usually completed their life cycle of flowering and setting fruit by mid-summer, a few plants sometimes persist until late fall when Oklahoma’s second rainy season occurs.

These plants will then set flower a second time in a single season. That is not quite how “annuals” should behave. The more I learn about plants, the more I realize they do not read the manuals and do not care how the manuals say they should grow.

Pick up the May issue of OKFR to learn more!