CPC Plant Profile: Christ's Indian-paintbrush
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Plant Profile

Christ's Indian-paintbrush (Castilleja christii)

Full view of flowering plants in native habitat. Photo Credit: Carol Dawson
Description
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Orobanchaceae
  • State: ID
  • Nature Serve ID: 134319
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 04/04/1991

Castilleja christii is one of Idaho's rarest plants--it is found in a single population in the Albion Mountains of Cassia County, Idaho. It was named after John H. Christ, the first botanist to collect this species. This showy perennial herb grows from 6 to 8 inches tall and produces yellow to yellow-orange flowering spike. (Holmgren 1973, USFWS 1995) This and other paintbrush species are often believed to be purely parasitic, meaning that they survive by using resources produced in another plant host. However, it is actually hemi-parasitic, meaning that it is capable of independent production of nutrients but gains additional nutrients through root attachments with surrounding plants (Kuijt 1969, Borland 1988,Burbridge 1991, Heckard 1988).

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/02/2020
  • Propagation Research

Seed germination studies by Denver Botanic Gardens suggest that this species has a strong seed dormancy, as they may require three months or more of cool, moist conditions to germinate. This is likely a remnant of the species' biology, as it is found in a habitat where deep snow is common and has even been documented to last throughout the summer months. (Mancuso 1996)

  • 10/02/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Seeds have been collected by Denver Botanic Gardens and are currently stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado. (Mancuso 1996)

  • 10/02/2020
  • Seed Collection

Seeds have been collected by Denver Botanic Gardens and are currently stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado. (Mancuso 1996)

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Christ's Indian paintbrush is known from only one population covering roughly 200 acres near the summit of Mount Harrison in southern Idaho. The population probably supports at least 1,000,000 individuals. Even though this species' population numbers seem to fluctuate widely, it is believed to be declining, based on short term trend information. It has been searched for unsuccessfully on nearby peaks and ranges. The Sawtooth National Forest has taken a number of steps to reduce ground disturbance activities and other threats within the population over the years. The recent establishment of smooth brome within the population is a potentially serious threat to Christ's Indian paintbrush and its habitat. Control of this aggressive non-native grass will be a large management challenge.

Thomas Grant
  • 01/01/2010

Habitat loss and degradation, due mainly to road construction and recreational interference. It is also subject to trespass grazing by domestic livestock. (Dawson 1994)

Thomas Grant
  • 01/01/2010

One population at Mount Harrison in the Sawtooth National Forest, Cassia County, Idaho. (Holmgren 1973, Mosely 1997)

Thomas Grant
  • 01/01/2010

Seeds have been collected by Denver Botanic Gardens and are currently stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado. (Mancuso 1996) Seed germination studies by Denver Botanic Gardens suggest that this species has a strong seed dormancy, as they may require three months or more of cool, moist conditions to germinate. This is likely a remnant of the species' biology, as it is found in a habitat where deep snow is common and has even been documented to last throughout the summer months. (Mancuso 1996)

Thomas Grant
  • 01/01/2010

A 1995 article in Endangered Species Bulletin notes that the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) has voted to approve the draft conservation strategy for this category one listing candidate. The article also mentions a move to create a Mount Harrison Research Natural Area, which would include 23% of the species population.

Thomas Grant
  • 01/01/2010

Population monitoring is necessary.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Castilleja christii
Authority N. Holmgren
Family Orobanchaceae
CPC Number 804
ITIS 501321
USDA CACH19
Common Names Christ's Indian paintbrush
Associated Scientific Names Castilleja christii
Distribution Mount Harrison at the northern end of the Albion Mountains in Cassia County, Idaho. (Holmgren 1973)
State Rank
State State Rank
Idaho S1
Habitat

This species is found in grassy upper sub-alpine meadows along the crest and slope of the mountain in loamy gravel and occurs most often in areas where snowdrifts remain into early summer. The rocky ridge at 9,100 ft. is scattered with quartzite and mica schist stones and boulders. (Holmgren 1973)Found among Poa sandbergii (Little Bluegrass), Festuca idahoensis (blue bunchgrass), Solidago multiraciata (Alpine Goldenrod) Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), and Pedicularis contorta (Coiled-beak Lousewort). (Holmgren 1973)

Ecological Relationships

No specific information is known, including which species or group of species that C. christii may form hemiparasitic relationships with. Reproduction is by seed, but nothing is known about seed dispersal or seed bank dynamics. (Mancuso 1996) Pollinators are unknown.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Leaf-cutting bees Megachile frigida Floral Visitor Link
Leaf-cutting bees Megachile melanophaea Floral Visitor Link
Leaf-cutting bees Osmia grandeliae Floral Visitor Link

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