The Casual Hiker™

Trails, Tips, & Other Topics

Indian Paintbrush June 1, 2017

Filed under: Wild Flower Extravaganzas — Chanté McCoy @ 2:44 pm
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Indian PaintbrushIf you’re into wild flowers, you’re going to love the many colors and varieties of Indian Paintbrush found high in Indian Paintbrush2Utah’s mountains, as well as on its desert floors.

Of the genus Castilleja, the flower clusters of this native perennial resemble ragged paintbrushes dipped in reds, pinks, oranges, and even white. Over 200 species are found in North and South America and Asia. The 14 Utah varieties include C. chromosa, C. exilis, C. linariifolia, C. miniata, C. applegatei, and C. rhexifolia that are commonly growing along the Wasatch Front.

Castilleja are difficult to cultivate from seed because they are hemiparasitic to the extent that they draw off water and nutrients from a host plant’s roots. This relationship with other plants allows it to survive in dry climates and extend its range. For propagation, they rely on hummingbirds and long-tongued insects for pollination.

Apparently, the blossoms are edible in small quantities and can be added to salad, though they range from bitter to sweet. (If you’re lost in the woods, one’s palette gets less fickle, eh?) On account of the high selenium content, don’t eat the toxic leaves or roots. However, you could boil these bits for hair wash and to treat rheumatism. Or, if you have your eye on a special someone, it can be used as a love charm.

Personally, I’m just happy to photograph them and leave them be.


Wild Flowers & Fall Colors February 10, 2013

autumn colors in American Fork Canyon

autumn colors in American Fork Canyon

While panoramic views are breathtaking, I take a lot of joy in the small details: flowers, twittering birds, and the contrasting colors of rock. This explains why I’m a meanderer. Half the time, I have to remind myself to stop looking down to take in the bigger picture.

Indian paintbrush and lupine in Albion Basin

Indian paintbrush and lupine in Albion Basin

Wild flowers are most abundant along sun-drenched slopes and open meadows. Considering you’re in Utah, you’ll have lots of opportunity to enjoy their array of colors.

Asking which trails have the best wild flowers or fall colors is comparable to asking someone to pick their favorite child. Wild flowers, notably in late spring through summer, are amazing on any of the alpine mountain trails. Look for colorful and abundant asters, wild rose, cardinal flower, columbine, larkspur, bee plant, fireweed, gentian, lupine, phlox, paintbrush, and penstemon.  This list doesn’t even begin to suggest the breath of flowers to be found on the mountains, let alone more arid terrain. This guide offers photographs of some of the common flowers to be found.

Come autumn, the fall colors are amazing on any mountain trail too. I particularly like the golden quaking aspens and cottonwoods and red-orange mountain maples set off by the evergreens.

For wild flowers, check out the following trails:

  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Desolation Lake (via Big Water Trail)
  • Dog Lake
  • Elbow Fork to Lamb’s Canyon
  • Lake Blanche (via Mill B South Fork)
  • Scout Falls

(more links to come…)