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Penstemon strictus

This is a native species.

Penstemon strictus
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Rocky Mountain Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Above and left: Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, June 24, 2017 and June 19, 2005.

Penstemon strictus is showy, very common, and often appears in large colonies in Pinyon-Juniper woods and lower montane elevations.  It blooms for many weeks and is, in many areas of the Four Corners, the most common and conspicuous Penstemon.  It grows from one-to-three feet tall; has few, narrow, pointed, opposite stem leaves; and its numerous stems with numerous purple flowers (ranging from intensely deep purple to pale lavender-purple) are mostly secund, i.e.,wrapped to one side of the stem.  

Penstemon strictus is always abundant on Mesa Verde's Prater Ridge Trail and even in 2001 after the extensive fire of the summer of 2000, the plant bloomed profusely.  In 2005, when this photograph was taken, the fire-hardened soils were returning to normal and heavy winter and spring moisture produced an amazing bloom of Penstemon strictus -- and many other flowering plants on Prater Ridge.  

"Strictus", from the Latin for "straight" or "upright", perhaps refers to the leaf or to the very straight stems  --  which often, however, actually lean.

Penstemon strictus
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Rocky Mountain Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Scotch Creek Road
, July 1, 2004.

The secund (one-sided) structure of Penstemon strictus is evident in the photograph at left. In actuality, the individual flower stems (the "pedicels") are growing on both sides of the main plant stem, but the pedicels on one side (the right side in the photograph) bend around the stem.

Penstemon strictus

Penstemon strictus

Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Rocky Mountain Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Prairie Dog Knoll Trail, Utah, July 10, 2007.

The shape of a Penstemon's corolla is one key detail that assists in distinguishing one species from another. The side view of the corolla shows a short tube just projecting from the calyx and then swelling quickly both at the top and bottom of the throat.

Also notice two other characteristics that are important in identifying a Penstemon species: the hairiness of the anther sacs (they are hairy for P. strictus) and the hairiness of the staminode (glabrous for P. strictus, but sometimes sparsely hairy).

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Penstemon strictus