Subgenus Dasanthera (9 species)
Bibliographical References: Northwest Penstemons by Dee Strickler, 1997, The Flower Press—many thanks for permission to use your text, with some additions from other sources. Author
Penstemon lyallii Gray Lyall’s Beardtongue
Stems: Shrubby only at the base, the plants entirely herbaceous above, 3-8dm (12-32 in) tall, glabrous below the inflorescence, few or no sterile shoots.
Leaves: Deciduous, all found on blooming stems, 3-13 cm (1-5in.) long and narrow, about 10 times as long as wide, sharp-pointed, pale green and nearly entire to finely serrate.
Inflorescence: An open, branching panicle, glandular-pubescent.
Calyx: Sepals narrow, 7-15 mm (to 5/8”) long, glandular, entire and pointed.
Corolla: Pale lavender, 3-4 cm (1 ¼-1 ½”) long, bearded on the two ridges on the palate and hairless outside.
Anther Sacs: Woolly pubescent, explanate (open flat).
Staminode: Short, glabrous, not much expended at the tip.
Blooming: June to August.
Habitat: Steep, rocky mountainsides and rock outcrops to gravel bars at streamside, subalpine and alpine.
Range: Southeastern British Columbia, sw Alberta, n ID and NW MT.
Penstemon montanus Greene Mountain Penstemon
Stems: Woody at the base and branching, somewhat mat-forming, resembling aerial runners, spreading and more or less prostrate; flowering, (cauline) stems, non-woody, 1-3 dm (4-12in) long and upright, some leafy, sterile stems usually equal length to the fertile ones.
Leaves: To 5 x 2.5 cm (2” x 1”) long and wide, smaller below and all cauline, varying from glabrous to glandular (sticky) and sharply serrate to entire and green or glaucous, depending on the variety.
Inflorescence: Normally 2 flowers per node except 1 terminal; a crowded secund (one-sided) raceme without bracts beneath, glandular or glabrous.
Calyx: 8-14 mm (5 /16- 9 1/16”) long, the sepals narrow, pointed, entire on the margins and mostly glandular.
Corolla: 2.6 to 3.9 cm (1-1 ½”) long, blue, lavender or violet, glabrous; keeled on top and bearded on the 2-ridged palate.
Anther Sacs: Densely white-wooly, the sacs becoming opposite and explanate.
Staminode (false stamen): Slender, short and included within the corolla; glabrous or lightly bearded ½ the length.
Blooming: Mostly in midsummer.
Habitat: Subalpine and alpine on rocky outcrops or shifting talus.
Range: Central ID to s-c MT, w WY and c UT.
- variety idahoensis (Keck) Cronq .Leaves are entire or sub-entire, glabrous or roughly puberulent (fuzzy), but usually not sticky and often smooth; stems are generally less than 1 cm when in full bloom.; c ID from w Custer to n Elmore and w Valley counties.
- variety montanus Leaves are strongly toothed, generally rough-hairy, often sticky, not at all smooth; stems are often longer to 2 cm, found in remainder of range.
Penstemon barrettiae Gray Barrett’s Penstemon
Stems: Length 1.5 to 4 dm (6-16 in.), generally spreading to prostrate and often mat-forming.
Leaves: Relatively large 4-8 cm (1 ½-3 in.) long, including short petioles at base of plants, lanceolate to elliptic and 2.5 cm (1 in.) broad, entire to irregularly serrate on margins; cauline (stem) leaves smaller and stemless to clasping, all glabrous and glaucous.
Inflorescence: A raceme or a panicle usually with 2 flowers per cyme (stemmed cluster).
Calyx: 5-8 mm (to 5/16”) long, the sepals ovate, tapered to acute tips, finely serrated and glandular and erose (thin) on the margins.
Corolla: 2.5 to 3.8 cm (1-1/2”) long and 1 cm (3/8”) wide at the mouth and 2-ridged on the palate within, lilac or rose-purple, the lips relatively short and the palate copiously white-bearded.
Anther Sacs: Densely white-woolly, explanate (open flat) and diverging or becoming opposite.
Staminode: Naked and included with corolla, about ½ the length of the fertile stamens.
Blooming: April and May.
Habitat/Range: Basalt cliffs and talus slopes of lower elevations in the east end of the Columbia Gorge.
Penstemon ellipticus Coult. & Fisch. Rockvine or Elliptic-leaved Penstemon
Stems: The basal stems woody, prostrate and often rooting by layering and forming substantial mats; the flowering stems reach 5 to 15 cm (2-6”) long and are quite fuzzy.
Leaves: Elliptic to ovate, resembling P. davidsonii var menziesii, 1-2.5 cm (to 2 “) long, and usually on short stems, glabrous and round or obtuse on the end, usually finely serrate on the margins, some leaves evergreen and others deciduous.
Inflorescence: A glandular raceme.
Calyx: The sepals narrow, lanceolate to oblong, 8-15 mm (1/16 –5/8”) long. Glandular-hairy.
Corolla: Deep lavender, 2.7 to 4 cm (1-1 ½”) long, glabrous without, white-hairy within, keeled on top and 2-ridged on the palate.
Anther Sacs: Woolly-pubescent and explanate (opened flat)
Staminode: Slender, short, included with the corolla and well-bearded.
Habitat: Rocky places, mostly alpine.
Range: Southeastern British Columbia and sw Alberta, n ID and nw MT, rare in c ID and sw MT.
Penstemon newberryi Gray Mountain Pride or Berry’s Penstemon
Stems: Branching at the base, reclining and somewhat mat-forming, 1.2 to 3dm (5-12 “) long, often w/leafy, sterile side branches and hairs pointing backwards.
Leaves: Larger leaves grow on base of stems and on sterile shoots, to 4 cm (1 ½”) long ovate, elliptic or oar-shaped on short stems, smooth or feebly pubescent (fuzzy), serrate to nearly smooth leaf margins; upper floral stem leaves reduced to mere bracts.
Inflorescence: A few-flowered raceme, glandular and more or less secund (one-sided).
Calyx: 7-12 mm (to ½”) long; the sepals lanceolate to ovate, green, glandular and tapered to acute tips.
Corolla: 2.5 to 3+ cm (1-1/4”) long, gaping at the mouth, lavender to purplish or pinkish, glabrous outside, keeled on the top and 2-ridged on the bottom within, modestly white-bearded on the palate.
Anther Sacs: Densely long woolly and white, the lobes spreading opposite and explanate (opened flat), just reaching the mouth of the corolla.
Staminode (false stamen): Slender, modestly bearded w/pale yellow fuzz, short and included in corolla. Chromosome count: 2n+16. Stamens protrude from corolla resembling white spots.
Blooming: June to August.
Habitat: Rocky outcrops and talus slopes, moderate to high elevations in the mountains.
Range: Josephine & Jackson Counties, OR and N and C California
- subsp berryi (Eastw.) N. Holmgren leaves are much reduced, corolla rose-red, throat 7.5-12 mm wide when pressed flat, floor long-curly-hairy, anther sacs 1.2-1.7 mm; Klamath Range, OR and CA:
- subsp newberryi leaves much reduced up stem, cerise flower 4.7-7.5 mm when pressed, floor short-hairy, 2-4 stamens protrude, anther sacs .8-1.3mm; N & C Ca, NV
- subsp sonomensis (Greene) Jepson; leaves a little smaller upward, corolla cherry-red, throat 5.5-6.5 mm when pressed, floor short-hairy, 2-4 stamens protrude, anther sacs about 1.2 mm. Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties, not common
Penstemon rupicola (Piper) Howell Cliff or Rock Penstemon
Stems: Shrubby at the base, prostrate and matted; stems rising 1 dm (4” tall or less, very leafy and short-hairy.
Leaves: ovate, leathery, bluish-glaucous, minutely to markedly serrate, 8-18 mm (1/4-11/16”) long; cauline leaves much reduced.
Inflorescence: A raceme, few-flowered and compact, second (one-sided) and glandular-pubescent.
Calyx: Sepals elliptic, 6-11 mm (1/4-1/2”) long glandular, acute at the tip and often purplish.
Corolla: Pink to deep rose, 2.5 to 3.7 cm (1-1 ½ “) long and rather narrow, keeled on top, 2-ridged on the palate within, glabrous except for a few hairs on palate and broadly 2-lipped.
Anther Sacs: Densely woolly-pubescent, explanate, mostly included with the corolla or slightly exherted (protruding).
Staminode: Glabrous or sparsely bearded, short and included.
Blooming: Late spring to midsummer, depending on elevation.
Habitat: Basalt rock cliffs or rock outcrops from low elevation in the Columbia Gorge to high elevations.
Range: The Cascades on both east and west slopes from s WA to sw OR and n CA.
P. davidsonii Greene Davidson’s Penstemon, Creeping Penstemon
Stems: Shrubby at base and mat-forming, the flowering stems from less than 10-15 cm (to 6”) high.
Leaves: Mostly basal, to 1.5 cm (to 5/8”) long, elliptical to nearly round, green, smooth, and quite thick; cauline (floral stem) leaves few and much smaller to bract-like.
Inflorescence: A compact, few-flowered raceme, secund (one-sided) and usually glandular (sticky) w/ short stems.
Calyx: The sepals narrow to ovate, 7-15 mm (to 5/8”) long, obtuse to pointed and green.
Corolla: Blue to lavender or purple, 2.5 to 4 cm (1-1 ½”) long, keeled (raised) on top and 2 ridged on the palate (inside bottom) glabrous outside and the palate sparsely to densely bearded.
Anther Sacs: White-woolly and fully opened, valves spreading flat.
Staminode (infertile stamen): Short, about ½ as long as the stamen filaments (stems) and pale yellow bearded at the tip; included inside the corolla. Chromosome count: 2n+16.
Habitat: Rocky outcrops or talus from montane to alpine.
Range: Coastal B.C. through Coast and Cascade ranges to the California Sierras and on Steens Mountain, OR.
- variety davidsonii varies in having entire (no serration), spatulate (wider at tip) leaves. It grows from southern WA to Sierras of CA. It’s range overlaps variety menziesii in S WA and n OR
- variety menziesii (Keck) Cronquist varies in having slightly serrated leaves, lanceolate and broadest at the middle and is found in s Vancouver Island, Olympic Mts., n Cascades in WA and OR.
- variety praeteritis Cronquist, has a slightly larger corolla to 4.5 cm long, with sharp leaf tips, no serration and is found only in the Steens Mts. of OR and possibly nearby mountains of Nevada. It is rare and endangered due to its limited habitat.
P. cardwellii Howell Cardwell’s Penstemon.
Stems: Shrubby at base, 1-3 dm (4-12”) long, lax and somewhat mat-forming, sometimes rooting by layering; flowering stems 1-2 dm (4-8”) long, hairless below the floral stem.
Leaves: Basal leaves 1.5-4 cm (5/8-1 ½” long w/short stems, elliptic, rounded or obtuse at end, smooth or finely serrate on edges, hairless; floral stem leaves much smaller, but glabrous, broad and stemless.
Inflorescence: Normally a crowded, few-flowered raceme, sparsely glandular (sticky).
Calyx (sepals): 7-12 mm (3/8-1/2”) long, the sepals lanceolate to ovate and tapering to acute tips.
Anther Sacs: Woolly-hairy, becoming opposite and explanate (opened flat).
Staminode (infertile stamen): Very slender, short, included in corolla and sparsely yellow-bearded w/rather long hairs.
Blooming: May to July or early August above 4500’.
Habitat: Openings or wooded slopes at moderate elevations in the mountains.
Range: Cascade Mts of sw WA and OR, to the Coast Range in OR.
Penstemon fruticosus (Pursh) Greene Shrubby or Bush Penstemon
Stems: Woody and freely branched, generally prostrate and mat-forming at the base, with numerous sterile branches usually present; the flowering stems erect and 1.5-4 dm (6-16”) high; the plants sometimes forming extensive colonies.
Leaves: Vary according to the variety as described below, evergreen, rather leathery and shiny green; the cauline leaves much smaller than those at base.
Inflorescence: A few-flowered, second, glandular raceme.
Calyx: Glandular, the sepals entire, herbaceous (non-woody), variable shape, but generally acute at the tip, 7-15 mm (to 5/8”) long.
Corolla: Pale blue-lavender to purple, 2.5 to 5 cm (1-2”) long, glabrous outside and bearded white or yellowish on the 2-ridged palate; the lower lip longer than the upper.
Anther Sacs: Densely woolly, white, totally rupturing at maturity to open flat.
Staminode (false stamen): About ½ the length of the filaments (staminode stem), yellow-bearded at the slender tip.
Blooming: May to August.
Habitat: Open, rocky slopes to moderately dense forest, from the foothills to the high mountains.
Range: From the Cascade Summit of s British Columbia to sw Alberta, w to c OR.
- variety serratus (Keck) Cronq. leaves prominently serrate or dentate, holly-like shape, relatively small, the blade generally 1-2.5 cm (1/2 – 1 ¼”) wide and 2-3.5 times as long as wide; corolla 3-4 cm (up to 1 ½”) long, near Blue Mtn. Region, OR and WA to wc ID.
- variety scouleri (Lindl.) Cronq. Leaves finely toothed or entire, very narrow and linear, the larger ones with blade generally 2-5 cm x 3-5 mm (1-2 x ¼”); blade generally 6-10 times as long as wide; corolla 3.5-5 cm; ne WA, n ID, and adjacent BC.
- variety fruticosus: Leaves entire or slightly serrulate, broader, usually 2-7 times as long as wide, the blade to 6 cm (2+”) and 1.5 cm wide; corolla 3-4 cm (1-1 ½”) long; widespread and variable in color, but generally not in the range of other 2 varieties.
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The American Penstemon Society is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge about penstemons, their introduction into cultivation, and the development of new and improved cultivars. The Society was formed in 1946 by a group of gardeners who had been collecting and growing penstemons in many different parts of the country. Their original purpose is continued today:
- to grow and study all of the species possible
- to promote the use and enjoyment of penstemons in gardens
- to study penstemons in the wild
- to aid in the identification of penstemons.
- to acquaint penstemon enthusiasts with each other.
- to aid in protection of endangered penstemon species.
Members of the American Penstemon Society are also active in hybridizing and selecting superior forms for gardens. If you love penstemons, do join us!
The American Penstemon Society is a 501(c)3 entity and donations are tax deductible.
All donations are specifically earmarked for the APS Special Projects Program. The purpose of the APS Outreach Grants Program is to stimulate activities that promote knowledge and appreciation of Penstemons. The Society is particularly interested in funding projects that:
1) Promote conservation of Penstemon species in the wild, especially rare or sensitive ones, through understanding of factors that affect their survival, or
2) Promote appreciation for the diversity and beauty of Penstemons in wild and domestic landscapes, through horticultural research, dissemination of information of interest to gardeners, or the construction or enhancement of educational display gardens.
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