Indian Warrior, Pedicularis densiflora, grows on gravely or sandy hillsides usually in wooded areas. This low growing plant turns scarlet as its buds mature. The stem is slightly hairy and can grow up to 10 inches tall but around here it is usually shorter. A Native American tribe is said to have smoked its dried purple buds “for its narcotic effects.” Today, people use it as a muscle relaxant and, occasionally, as an aphrodisiac.
The plant has an unusual survival system. It can, and often does, attach its roots to another plant to obtain nutrients and water from its host (thus it is called a hemiparasite). This behavior can help it survive in areas with hot dry summers. Some of its favorite hosts are oaks and manzanitas so look for it where they are found. However, this parasitic system makes it difficult to cultivate and therefore it is rare in domestic gardens.
It is said that wild Indian warrior can absorb alkaloids from the soil and toxins from poison oak which makes it problematic for use as a medicine or narcotic.