Penstemons!

ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

One of the glories of the west, is in their full spring splendor right now. Not common in the east, although there are a few species, this is one of those, like Salvia and Agastache, that really is reserved for those of us in the intermountain and desert southwest. Not often people get plant envy of us here, but this one, this one they definitely should be.

Sure, there are a few garden varieties but they severely pale in comparison to our dazzling beauties out here.

P. angustifolia, one of our prairie beardtongues from the eastern half of the state, where the Platte river runs slow and shallow lined with cottonwoods and browsing pronghorns. The the variety of colors displayed by these guys is staggering, Electric blue, neon purple, lavender, bright pink....



Going west, up into the eastern foothills, the gateway of the Rockies, a land renowned for it's geology of red sandstone and thickets of gambel oak, we are greeted by the cheery pink of P. secundiflorus, bold blue flowers of P. glaber and the more delicate sky blue of P. virens




Onward and upward to our higher elevations in the majestic Rocky Mountains, P. strictus, growing beneath the shimmering leaves of quaking aspens, shows shades of rich royal purple, some having blue highlights.



Traveling southwest, we get to the desert land of the ancient Puebloans who built their homes on the side of mesas. P. eatonii graces us with the stunning scarlet adored by hummingbirds and P. linaroides v. coloradoensis peersup at us from the ground in the clearings between pinon and junipers.



Husker red? BO-ring! These guys put those ones to shame! Joking aside, I hope you enjoyed our colorful journey through the world of Penstemons here in the Centennial State. Anyone who knows me knows I am almost compulsive about this genre...So now that so many of them are blooming, I just couldn't help myself but show them off here!

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

DRROOOOL!!!. We are having a wet year so my penstemons are suffering bad. Next year when La Niña starts will be better for them. We had out penstemon triflorus, P. cobaea , P baccharifolias, P. barbata, P. alamosensis. I get to grow Penstemon suberbus usually but this year it did not come back. None were happy about this way too wet winter and spring. We are over 10" over our norm.The penstemon pseudospectabilis is especially unhappy this year.I don't even want to show their pictures. During the summer it got burnt back also , so I do not know if it is a keeper. or if I should move it into some part shade.

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texasranger2

Hey, thats not a joke. Its a fact. The native desert type penstemons put the wannabee garden types to shame and I'd even go so far as to say that those commercially sold garden varieties like Huskers Red don't even look like penstemons, not to me anyway but then I'm a snob about this. The ones with the cute names like the 'Cha Cha' series, 'the Taffy's' and 'Carillos' just look like regular run of the mill boring bedding plants.

Those are simply gorgeous! That P. angustifolia is something else.

When it comes to admiring native plants in the SW, I could make a long list. When it comes to native plants in the SE, frankly I'm bored and if its woodland stuff, I'm totally disinterested.

Its a weird year in that Oklahoma is still on the dry side, at least thats the case where I am and Texas is getting drowned. Of course Texas shouldn't complain after the long drawn out drought we've all had even though I know it'd be nice if it didn't all come at one time. Some of those inches they've reported sound terrible. Skeeters must be thick down there. My penstemon season is about wrapped up. The P. barbadus is still showing red but its past its prime and the earlier types have formed seed pods.

P. barbadus planted in deep, deep sand. It gets 5ft tall there by the wall in the courtyard. No kidding, 5ft.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I will be seeding out a lot of the cobaea and the triflorus later this summer. I do have a soft spot for a mass planting of Penstemon tennis from the gulf coast plains. I like things that grow well without a fight. They do well under my oaks in dappled light. Huskers red is not even red.

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purslanegarden(Zone 8)

I like the larger blooms of some penstemons, but I have to admit that the native one I have must be some kind of insect magnet because practically all flowers were fertilized. A seed pod was on every single spot along the flower stem. However, that is also the reason I cut off the stalk. I didn't want a whole lot of native penstemons growing there. I only wanted the controlled look of the 1-2 pestemons I have, in that spot it's growing in.

But cutting off the main flower stalk did let me see that the penstemon makes a new branch to make more flowers, so that will bring more pollinators.



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texasranger2

That P. Cobaea is what I'd have to call a Ka-POW "Look at that!" plant in a grassland or prairie situation. This was my first year on those and I'm certainly letting them set seed for volunteers. The 'problem' I have with penstemons is after they bloom the plant makes an ugly statement, kind of like a carcass thats pretty tall and noticeable. In the wild stuff like that doesn't matter so much but in an urban setting its tempting to whack em down before the seed matures, anyway, thats been my experience. Cobea is a lot less visible than some in that regard.

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ncrescue

Incredible photos. Thanks for sharing as I won't be able to see the real things!


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Hudson Valley NY (zone 5)(5)

Gorgeous pictures of beautiful plants - Thank you!. Here in NY I have a wild penstemon growing in my back yard, It's about 1' tall with a small cluster of white flowers at the top of the stem. I think it is the Penstemon hirsutus, the hairy beardtongue. Not as showy as your plants but I'm very grateful it is growing in my back yard :)

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Penstemon digitalis is quite common here-at least in seed mixes! Said to be local genotype, yet I wonder....never having seen them in the wild. I do concur with Zach....those dry stretches of land have their advantages.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Cobea is a new one to me, had to look it up. The purple colored ones remind me a lot of strictus. I have discovered with many, sun exposure has a lot of impact on flower color. One ofy strictus plants is is full blazing sun, it is a much lighter purple than the ones that gets much more shade, which is far darker and has the blue highlights. I have noticed this in the "wild" as well. The virens with sunnier exposures, such as the east and south side of the hills have more purple, the ones growing on north and west facing slopes are consistently more blue. A carcass, lol, that's pretty accurate. My eatonii is getting to be at the stage itself. I was hoping for seeds, but it's quite the eyesore once its finished blooming. Plus I think it gets too much water in the first place.

They are indeed pollinator magnets. The small halictid needs swarm the linaroides and the bumbles are drawn to the large strictus flowers and bury themselves completely inside them. They will do the same once my x mexicali starts to bloom (Red Rocks and Pike's Peak are hybrids I accommodate because they bare local nomenclature, I'm boastful like that lol).

I do love the "dry stretches" being an unrepentant sun lover and my dread of any humidity that gets above 10%... I'll keep my aridity, plus we get these beauties;)

Thank you all for the kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures! I have pinifolius blooming in the yard right now and I got more pictures on my hike this weekend... I'll have to update.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I killed the pinifolius. Our heat is just too much for it.

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macranthos(Z8B Portland OR)

I'll add one or two just for fun. The biggest patch of rupicola I've ever seen. Two weeks ago in southern Oregon.

Another.


I think this one is a davidsonii but haven keyed it out yet.

There were two other species up here but I apparently didn't get good pictures.

Heres the landscape. Covered in all sorts of alpine gems. Everywhere you look, like color had been scraped on the rocks like butter in the crannies of bread.


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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Even looks good with dead trees in the background!

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macranthos(Z8B Portland OR)

Part of the biscuit fire. That's part of living in the west... I think the other plants like it tho.

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Hudson Valley NY (zone 5)(5)

Thanks for the great pics & text macranthos(Z8B Portland OR) very interesting to see these plants in another state so different from my local landscape

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

After the Hayman fire here in 2002, one of the most common flowers to be found in the burn scar was P. strictus. Many Penstemon seeds need light to germinate, and take full advantage of the newfound sunshine once the tree canopy has been removed. That rupicola is stunning. I have a friend who recently added davidsonii to their garden, they love it. When we were scouting for elk last august we camped just below tree-line at ~10-11,000 ft. At that altitude, all the flowers that had faded down here months before were still in their prime, the snow probably only having melted completely about a month before we got there. Love the alpine plants, unfortunately, many do not like our hotter, dryer summers here at lower elevations.

Here is another P. virens from last Sunday, one of the most floriferous specimens I have seen... never mind the cheatgrass.


And another secundiflorus. These two species are the most commonly found ones in the foothills just a mile or so west of me. P. unilateralis also lives there but is a summer bloomer, and not quite as regularly seen


And a yellow pinifolis from my yard. They do great here on the front range, though, I think mine get a little too much water being on a slope.


And it's red brethren:


I also have a correction: the first picture under "P. strictus" from my original post, I do not think is P. strictus. This one has puzzled me since I first got it. It was supposed to be a red flowering ones, wild collected in Utah by a friend of mine. She thought it was either utahensis or eatonii, but didn't know so she gave me a seedling to grow. Well, it grew up and turned into that. It's obviously not a red flowering one, and while I originally thought it was a strictus, because the leaves and color matched and she also grows P. strictus in her garden. Now that my "other" structus is blooming I can compare them side by side and they are definitely not the same. If anyone has any idea what it actually is, I'll take any suggestions.

Regardless of what species it is, it is beloved by bumblebees. This was one of the 7-10 that were swarming it early this morning.

THIS is an actual strictus, also a bumble favorite:


And these P. palmeri are growing along the road outside of work and I quickly snapped a picture on my way in yesterday. I don't believe they are native to this side of the continental divide in Colorado, and certainly not the shortgrass prairie found from Denver-eastward. They are not a commonly grown flower (especially in the neighborhood I work, it's mostly and industrial area, save for our little "oasis") so I don't think they came from someones yard.


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texasranger2

Very beautiful and the camera work isn't too shabby either. Great shots. Really nice.

Save     Thanked by ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Tx, you might like the P. triflorus also. They should do well in your manic environment. It does pretty good here except for the deer factor. I really need to learn how to shoot better. I saw a very nice large stand of them at the Lady bird WFC that was nothing to sneeze at. I can send seed.

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texasranger2

Woops... I meant to comment on the Oregon shots and I didn't. Those are stunning! Back when I was looking for and collecting native cactus I pulled up shots of the desert regions of Washington state and Oregon. It looks like beautiful country up there. This is my favorite kind of landscape in America, hands down.

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macranthos(Z8B Portland OR)

More excellent shots Zach. I wish I knew the genus better to attempt to ID your unknown but there are just so darn many of them!

Thanks TR. Being outside here is my favorite place to be too.

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texasranger2

You guys have any shots of Buckwheat? I love all the native SW desert buckwheats, I like em better even than penstemons. I'm seriously jealous of anyone who can grow it or has it commonly growing wild around where they live. This is a plant that I don't think would make it here but I did order seeds once from PoSW. Not a single seed germinated.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Me two !!!! I love the way they change red in fall but , oh dear, that would be off topic. LOL

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macranthos(Z8B Portland OR)

Eriogonums are also lovely plants. Very tough and droughty. I don't have any pictures from recently although there were plenty. Too many other things to see. I just have this one picture from my yard of a long horn beetle on my eriogonum.


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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I have a couple of sulphur flower buckwheat. I'll have to dig them up.

Thanks again for the kind words everyone! Glad you are enjoying the "botanical tour" of the Front Range lol.

As for the mystery Penstemon, I would rule out a "natural" hybrid so an actual ID may be impossible lol.

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