Ink & Penstemon

Observations on plants, gardening, & nature from the Great Basin steppe in the American West.

If you get mired in something, click on the Penstemon barbatus 'Elfin Pink' image.



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    Eriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium. Sand Hollow State Park, Utah. Another #friendofpenstemons trying to steal the show. Very nice backlit in the morning light against the red sand.

    Flower on Echinocereus triglochidiatus I got from Intermountain Cactus. Description has it hailing from the Manzano Mountains in New Mexico. “Unusual with large tubercles and only 3 spines per areole.” For me, that translates as “big bumps; not so spiny. Has big red flowers. Is good.”

    'Copper Pot' Eschscholzia californica and Penstemon sepalulus are taking center stage in the gravel garden since more structural agaves, yuccas and various grasses aren’t up to snuff to carry it on their own. But color means lots of gawkers. Now if only the city would let me do something about that strip of green in the park strip. That’s Eremurus robustus ‘Spring Valley Splendor’ on the right, by the way.

    Time for a change of pace from #Penstemania to #friendsofPenstemons.

    Krameria erecta (Littleleaf Rhatany, Purple heather), Sand Hollow State Park, Utah.

    Krameria, commonly referred to as “Rhatany” is the only genus of the family Krameriacea, and 17 lower species classifications which occur in the Carribean, Central America, and South America. The North American species are mostly thorny, gray, tangled shrubs, made remarkable in the spring and the fall by the purple orchid-like little flowers that cover them. They are parasitic plants, leeching nutrients, and especially in this case, water, from neighboring host plants. The plant produces rhataniatannic acid, which is similar to tannic acid; it has been used traditionally as a mouthwash and dentifrice. Apparently, mouth rinses with “Ratanhia” remain very popular in places like Peru and Argentina.

    Penstemon humilis var. obtusifolius (Zion Penstemon), along the Hidden Canyon Trail, Zion National Park, Utah.

    Penstemon palmeri var. palmeri (Palmer’s Penstemon). Top photo, outside the Springdale Community Center, Springdale, Utah. Bottom three, Snow Canyon, Utah.

    Palmer’s Penstemon is something of a gateway Penstemon species. It’s tall, fragrant, and has a prominent bearded staminode which owns up to the common name “beardtongue.” P. palmeri is like a foxglove for the dryland garden.

    The pictures above show the variation in color, however the middle left is the most purple I’ve ever seen it. 

    Penstemon pinorum (Pinyon Penstemon), Old Iron Town Road, Cedar City, Utah. This guy has only been its own species since 1985. It is found growing among the Juniper forest and is listed as critically imperiled.

    This is the best shot I got, so we’ll have to live with it. For those as deeply dissatisfied as I am, here is a link to a better image.

    Penstemon thompsoniae, (Thompson’s Penstemon), Old Iron Town Road, Cedar City, Utah.

    There was some debate as to whether this itty bitty thing was P. caespitosa or P. thompsoniae. The botanists came down on the side of P. thompsoniae. Regardless, these plants are tiny. You had to look really closely for those plants and even closer to make sure you didn’t step on any.

    Penstemon confusus, (Mistaken Penstemon) Old Iron Town Road, Cedar City, Utah.

    Penstemon petiolatus, Beaver Dam Wash, Utah.

    A showy Penstemon that likes it hot & dry, and apparently does very well in a garden setting. It grows in southern Nevada and southwestern Utah. I would tell you where to get seed, but I want to make sure I get some first before there’s a run on it. These plants are growing out of limestone rocks punctuated with the Vishnu schist, or “basement rock” of the Grand Canyon, which is about 1.8 billion-years-old. The site was also peppered with Utah Agave (Agave utahensis), many of which were sending up flowering spikes, and barrel cacti (Ferocactus cylindraceus). I will be posting more about the wash, but in the meantime, another APS member, Andi Wolfe, posted much better pictures of these Penstemon with much more detailed information, along with great pics of the cliffs here.

    This location and this Penstemon was perhaps the most popular Penstemon of the trip, for everyone. Of course, I would discover that my camera battery was dead as soon as I arrived, but someone graciously offered me their point & shoot for these. It just means I will have to return to the site again to get more pictures.

    Penstemon eatonii var. eatonii (Firecracker Penstemon) growing out of cracks in the rock along the Hidden Canyon Trail, Zion National Park, Utah.

    Penstemon ×jonesii (Jones’s Penstemon), Hidden Canyon Trail, Zion National Park, Utah.

    A naturally occurring hybrid between P. eatonii and P. laevis, both of which can also be seen on this trail. This plant is endemic to Zion National Park. 

    Penstemon ambiguus. Showy! P. ambiguus demonstrating its shrubbiness. Close-up of the corolla. You can see how it almost seems Phlox-like in appearance. A few sparser specimens. P. ambiguus is described as growing at middle elevations in rocks and sandy soils. This population seems to prefer sand. Penstemon ambiguus habitat, just to reinforce that these plants are growing in pure sand.

    Penstemon ambiguus var. laevissimus (Gilia Penstemon) Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah.

    This population is easy to find as it is immediately off the highway and the red dunes makes for a spectacular setting. The weirdly shaped corolla first had this plant classified in its own genus, Leiostemon, but its inner bits betray it as being a Penstemon. Hummingbirds are its pollinator.

    Getting pictures of this came at the cost of me getting scratched up by barbed wire. Worth it.

    Back from the 2014 American Penstemon Society Meeting

    I’ve wanted to go to one of the American Penstemon Society's annual meetings for a long time, but having many young children got in the way. This year, the meeting was centered at Zion National Park and southern Utah, so I decided to join in. Technically, it is still going on tomorrow and Tuesday, but mothering duties called. It was fun to meet the 50+ Penstemon enthusiasts from the U.S. who made the trip. 

    Over the next week or so, I’ll post some goodies I brought back as photographic souvenirs. However, I discovered that all of the photos I took of non-Penstemon type plants turned out better than many of my Penstemon shots, which just reinforces that I need to go out and get a macro lens.

    Still, I have many fine shots. I will even include some of the not-so-fine shots because that’s what I’ve got. Chances are, if you join APS, someone else’s excellent photo of the same subject will make the bulletin.


    Penstemon palmeri outside the Canyon Community Center, Springdale, Utah.

    Phlox longifolia, Skull Valley, Utah. Photo credit Steve Hegji.

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