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Penstemon superbus
(Superb beardtongue)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]

Family: Scrophulariaceae

Scientific Name: Penstemon superbus A. Nelson


Vernacular Name: Superb beardtongue

R-E-D Code: 1-1-2

Description: Plants perennial, glaucous (bluish); stems 3-12 dm tall; basal leaves petiolate; cauline leaves cordate-clasping or connate-perfoliate; inflorescence narrow, often more than half plant height, glandular or glabrous; flowers in dense fascicles separated by long internodes; corolla orange-pink to scarlet, glandular outside, very obscurely bilabiate, throat only slightly expanded, 17-22 mm long; stamens included; anthers glabrous, explanate; staminode bearded near tip with a few short hairs. Flowering April-June.

Similar Species: This species is unlikely to be confused with any other penstemon in the area because of its size, glaucous foliage, inflorescence architecture, unique flower color, and explanate anthers

Distribution: Grant and Hidalgo counties, New Mexico; Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Pima counties, Arizona; and adjacent Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico.

Habitat: Rocky canyons, washes, grasslands; sandy or gravelly soil; piƱon/juniper and oak woodlands; 950-1770 m (3100-5800 ft)

Remarks: Some earlier botanists occasionally identified certain specimens, including one by Metcalfe from Grant County, New Mexico, as P. wrightii, a Chihuahuan Desert endemic, which is very similar.

Conservation Considerations: This beautiful and conspicuous plant may be suffering from over-collection. Otherwise, current land uses apparently pose no threat to it.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Heflin, J. 1997. Penstemons: The beautiful beardtongues of New Mexico. Jackrabbit Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Nisbet, G.T. and R.C. Jackson. 1960. The genus Penstemon in New Mexico. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 41(5):691-759.

Nelson, A. 1904. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 17:100.

Gray, A. 1859. Scrophulariaceae [as P. puniceus]. In: W.H. Emory, Report on the United States and Mexican boundary survey, Vol 2, Part 1, general botany (by J. Torrey):113.

Information Compiled By: David Bleakly, 1999

Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council