The state flower of Wyoming is the Indian paintbrush, which is known in Latin as castilleja linariaefolia. It is characterized by its bright tube-shaped blossoms that range in color from vivid orange to deeper red. This flower gets its common name from its resemblance to a multi-tipped paintbrush with fine bristles. The Indian paintbrush has a unique history as the state flower of Wyoming, and it was actually not adopted without some struggle and controversy among some of the state's citizens in positions of influence.
Indian paintbrush flowers have a structure that somewhat differs from other types of blossoms. The outer petals are known as sepals, and these encase lighter-colored smaller blossoms on the inside. The green leaves and stems as well as the sepals are also covered with a series of fine hairs that make up a large part of the Indian paintbrush's namesake.
Although Wyoming had officially become a state in 1890, the state flower of Wyoming was still yet to be decided by 1916. The state leaders first considered the Indian paintbrush after poll results showed the flower as a favorite among the state's school children. The Wyoming chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution also placed support behind adopting this plant out of other possible choices for state flowers. Some additional support from academia soon garnered more notice from the Wyoming state legislature.
One of the most prominent supporters of the proposed state flower of Wyoming was a college political science professor named Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard, who was the first to draft and submit a bill for the measure of passing the state flower into law. The Indian paintbrush actually received the strongest opposition from one of Dr. Hebard's colleagues at the University of Wyoming, a botany professor named Dr. Aven Nelson who believed that the flower was a poor choice for several reasons. He maintained that the Indian paintbrush grew too sparsely throughout the state, it had a good number of sub-species that were difficult for the average layperson to distinguish, and it actually functioned as a parasitic flower that fed off the nutrients from other nearby trees and flowers.
Dr. Nelson believed that the state flower of Wyoming should have been one that was easily identifiable and that could readily be planted in gardens. His arguments were eventually outvoted due to the lobbying efforts of Dr. Hebard. The Indian paintbrush became the state flower by law in 1917.