I always enjoy looking at wildflowers as I hike, but one of my summer favorites is Paintbrush. Here in Alberta the most common variety is the Castilleja miniata (common red paintbrush), but we also see variants running through a range of colours, from pale yellow to orange, into a variety of pinks. They can be seen in bloom starting in June, until well into August. According to the folks at Wild About Flowers, paintbrush are a partial parasite, so they like to grow near well-established plants.
Other than the obvious reason for an artist to like a flower by that name, I like the way they look like a well-used, splayed paintbrush, enthusiastic little explosions of colour.
I’ve seen them everywhere from roadsides to trails at high elevation, typically in open, sunny areas. But the one hike where I’ve seen the greatest variety of paintbrush colours is along the trail going to Helen Lake, in Banff National Park along the Icefields Parkway. There I saw red, orange, and even some pink and white ones.
The spiky blooms are also a great challenge to draw and paint. I’ve tried a variety of mediums here, from coloured pencil to Inktense to pastel on suedeboard and velour, which got some really interesting results. Enjoy!
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