A Plant to Call Our Own

Magenta paintbrush-shaped flowers in a field of green grass
Lassen Paintbrush (Castilleja lassenesis)
Bootprint icon with red circle and slash
Wildflowers Grow By the Inch and Die By the Foot

This vibrant wildflower has long been overlooked, but it may soon enjoy its day in the sunlight. For more than 50 years, Lassen Paintbrush (Castilleja lassenesis) has been lumped into a broader species common in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

Certain floral characteristics and genetic evidence suggest the flower is its own distinct species. Its distribution is likely limited to Lassen Volcanic and its immediate surroundings. If verified, Lassen Paintbrush will join the Tehama Copper Moss (Haplodontium tehamense) as one of two endemic plant species found almost exclusively in the park.

A 2017 survey identified approximately 5,500 Lassen Paintbrush plants in six locations throughout the park. The fact that botanists can count the individual plants in this species highlights just how rare is it. The largest population (~1,500) is found in the Kings Creek Picnic Area. These delicate brush-like plants are impacted by trampling. Just four to six footsteps on average can kill a plant.

Lassen needs your help fostering the Lassen Paintbrush population. You can both enjoy wildflowers and protect them with simple choices like:

  • Staying on established trails
  • Resting or picnicking on hard surfaces
  • Leaving wildflowers for others to enjoy
  • Enjoying flowers in fragile wet areas near meadows, lakes, and creeks from afar

Last updated: March 19, 2019