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Nature Note: Indian Paintbrush Beautiful Wildflower

Nature Note: Indian Paintbrush Beautiful Wildflower

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Indian paintbrush and wild indigo are beautiful wildflowers that are blooming in the meadows around Skiatook.

Indian paintbrush belongs to the snapdragon family. The upright stems may reach two feet, but most are usually less than a foot. The bright orange or red flowers are clustered at the top of the plant and are seen April through May. Indian paintbrush is a partial parasite (hemiparasite). It attaches to the roots of several kinds of grasses. The flower’s name comes from Native American folklore. A young artist wanted to paint a beautiful sunset, but he didn’t have the brushes to do so. The Great Spirit gave him the brushes and when he was finished, he discarded them. They grew into the paintbrush plant. Indian paintbrush is the State Flower of Wyoming.

There are two varieties of wild indigo plants in our area, blue wild indigo and cream wild indigo. They belong to the legume (pea) family. Blue wild indigo are erect plants that grow to several feet. The purplish flowers are found on the upper portion of the plant and are seen April through May. Black seed pods form after the flowers die.

Cream wild indigo is a low spreading plant. The yellow flowers are found at the ends of the two-foot stems and may be seen April through May. After the flowers fade, black seed pods form.

There is a third wild indigo variety, white wild indigo. It grows upright like blue wild indigo. I’ve seen a single plant on our property and only once. In time I hope to find another so I can take pictures.


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