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May 29, 2008 / Bo Mackison

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

I found large patches of Indian Paintbrush on the grassy fringes of the shores of Lake Michigan in northern Wisconsin last weekend. It grows throughout the temperate zones of North America from May through July, especially in the prairies or meadows and in sandy areas.

Native Americans from many tribes used the plant for medicinal purposes. Chippewa brewed its leaves for a tea for rheumatism, Hopi women used the entire plant in a tea as a contraceptive, Navajos made a tea from the blossoms to treat burns and insect bites.

And according to a Native American legend, a young man was painting a picture of a sunset, but was unable to capture the vibrant orange hues to his satisfaction. He asked the Great Spirit for aid and he was given many paintbrushes dripping with vivid orange and red paints. When the artist finished his painting he tossed the brushes on the ground, and wherever a brush touched the earth an Indian Paintbrush plant appeared.


  1. Joanna Young / May 29 2008 3:16 am

    Thanks for sharing the background to the flowers Bo. I saw the picture on flickr and loved it, but it’s wonderful to know a bit more about the history and mythology of the plant.


  2. aullori / May 29 2008 3:28 am

    I loved the story and the shot is just amazing! I believe you did the really gorgeous flower justice on every level!!! Excellent work Bo!

  3. rlovison / May 29 2008 6:49 am

    Beautiful capture Bo and thanks for the background info. I enjoy Native American lore.

    I used to cherish trips to northern Wisconsin as a child and young adult though my family vacationed a bit further west in Eagle River.

  4. Robin / May 29 2008 7:11 am

    This is one of my favorite flowers. We have them growing all over our lawn and meadow.

    Wonderful post, Bo. 🙂

  5. Gandalf / May 29 2008 8:05 am

    Wonderful detail & a beautiful image. Indian Paintbrushes are amazing flowers.

  6. jpt / May 29 2008 10:05 am

    so fuzzy

  7. jeanabaena / May 29 2008 10:08 am

    Wow! That is beautiful. The details are incredible and the flower perfect. 😀

  8. HeyJules / May 29 2008 1:53 pm

    Gosh I wish we had that down here in Kansas City! I saw a field of it in Michigan a few years back and its gorgeous!

  9. davidlind / May 29 2008 2:27 pm

    Your photo has a ghostly quality about it that fits in very well with the story of the Indian painter and his brush. Very nice.

  10. montucky / May 29 2008 6:42 pm

    Simply beautiful! You did an excellent job with this one! That’s slightly different than the ones we have out here. with the color on the tips. What a beauty!

  11. Bo / May 30 2008 1:52 am

    Joanna – I love the legends and lore too.
    Lori – Thanks. Can’t you just see the “paintbrush?”
    Richard – I’ve never been to Eagle River; it’s a part of the state I’d like to see.
    Robin – In your lawn? Wow!
    Gandalf _ Thanks.
    jpt – very fuzzy – the wind was pretty fierce when I was taking the photos and contributed to the “look”
    jeanne – Thanks, it is a lovely flower.
    Jules – The color is what is so amazing – a fieldful would be pretty magnificent.
    David – I like the idea of ‘ghostly’
    montucky – I read there are 100+ species of the paintbrush. I’d love to see photos.

  12. amelia / May 31 2008 1:21 pm

    I love the ghost look too.

  13. lady.percy / Jun 16 2008 6:52 pm

    I’ve always loved Indian Paintbrush…cool picture.

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