Mark Egger, Research Associate at the Burke Museum, has described a new species of Indian paintbrush known only from the San Juan and Gulf Islands of Washington and British Columbia. The discovery of the new paintbrush resulted in part from a specimen collected by David Giblin (Burke Museum) and Peter Dunwiddie (The Nature Conservancy) during their ongoing botanical surveys of small islands in the San Juans.
Mark, an internationally recognized expert on the genus Castilleja, recognized the unusual specimen as identical to some sent to him just a few months earlier by Matt Fairbarns, a botanical consultant based in Victoria, British Columbia. These latter specimens came from the coastline and a small island near the city of Victoria. The Burke Museum specimen was the first and only collection of this new species from the United States. Mark and Matt have given it the name Castilleja victoriae, in memory of Victoria Zessin of Oregon and Nebraska, who died tragically in 1980, as well as for the city of Victoria, near which the plants are primarily found.
Occasional specimens of C. victoriae were collected over the past 100 years, but had always been misidentified or left unnamed and filed away in herbarium cabinets. However, all of these previous collections had escaped Mark's attention. Due to its extremely limited distribution (presently two islands, one in Canada and one in the US) and the vulnerable nature of its habitat, the new species is critically endangered in both the U.S. and Canada. Efforts are underway for it to be officially listed under the Endangered Species Act and to protect its very limited habitat in both countries.