California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

The Paintbrush Quest


The San Gabriel Mountains Chapter (SGM) of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is this year (2012) conducting a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt for the Mt. Gleason Paintbrush, Castilleja gleasoni, in the Angeles National Forest.

This species, which is our chapter logo, was restored to its status as a full species in the second edition (2012) of The Jepson Manual. In the earlier 1993 Jepson Manual it keys under C. pruinosa, as “probably a polyploid derivative of C. affinis ssp. a. x C. foliolosa”. In the left hand column is the original art work done by Pat Brame, which first appeared on the May 1985 newsletter. Below are two excerpts from the description by the original collector A. D. E. Elmer published in the Botanical Gazette 39: 51 (1905). Much of the area where it occurs burned in the Station Fire of 2009, but last year on our field trip to Santa Clara Divide Road we saw some fine specimens at the entrance to Horse Flats Campground (which did not burn in the Station Fire.)

Description of Castilleja gleasoni by A.D.E. Elmer in 1905

Here's the rationale for the paintbrush quest:

First, the Mt. Gleason paintbrush, Castilleja gleasoni, is our chapter logo. When it was selected it was a full species. Then in 1993, the then Jepson Manual editor relegated it to a polyploid derivative other species. Now, in 2012, the newest edition of the Jepson Manual once again gives it full species status.

Secondly, state CNPS has initiated a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Program to update all records of rare plants for the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB). We found some C. gleasoni last year at Horse Flats Campground entrance.

Third, the location where the plant was originally found burned in the 2009 Station Fire. It is along Mt. Gleason Road under Jeffrey pines. The paintbrush is hemiparasitic on the Jeffreys. So we first find the trees, then search for the paintbrush.

With these three things coming together this year with the publication of the new manual in January, the time is right for a paintbrush survey. We will not collect anything or disturb the plants in any way. We will only take GPS readings to update the old records and hopefully add new ones and, of course, mark non-occurrences from the old database.

We will update all the historic and present occurrences of our chapter logo, the Mt. Gleason paintbrush, in the CNDDB. There are 16 listed in the CNPS Rare Plant Inventory

We will go check all those we can get to safely and add some new ones. The Consortium of California Herbaria has 50 records listed. Those populations could be checked as well. However many of these are multiple vouchers from the same location and others are misidentified and still others do not have useable location data.

All are welcome to join us. Email


Text: Jane Strong

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