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Click to read about Penstemons.

 This is a native species.

Penstemon palmeri
Penstemon palmeri
Penstemon palmeri var. palmeri (Palmer's Penstemon, Palmer's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills. Openings, disturbed sites. grasslands. Summer.
Road to Mc Phee Campground, June 29, 2016.

Penstemon palmeri is a giant of a plant, commonly growing to four feet tall with dozens of pink to white bulbous flowers. As the map below indicates, Penstemon palmeri occurs in all of the Four Corners states but primarily west and south of the Four Corners in arid areas. It is used in roadside plantings and has spread rather quickly into areas such as Cortez and Durango where it previously had not been found.

In 1868 Asa Gray described this plant and named it for the great western plant collector, Edward Palmer who collected the species with his naturalist-surgeon companion Elliott Coues on the rocky river banks of the Rio Verde in Arizona in 1865. (Click for more biographical information about Palmer.)

Penstemon palmeri

Penstemon palmeri var. palmeri (Palmer's Penstemon, Palmer's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills. Openings, disturbed sites. grasslands. Summer.
Road to Mc Phee Campground, June 29, 2016.

Penstemon palmeri corollas are bulbous and huge, 24-37 mm long. Flower color varies through very light shades of pink to white. The lower lip has prominent wine-purple lines and tints of purple spread outward from the lines.

The staminode (the sterile stamen) is prominently, abundantly golden-haired.

                                         Penstemon palmeri

Penstemon palmeri

Penstemon palmeri var. palmeri (Palmer's Penstemon, Palmer's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills. Openings, disturbed sites. grasslands. Summer.
Road to Mc Phee Campground, June 29, 2016.

Penstemon palmeri leaf shape, color, and manner of attachment to the stem make it possible to identify this species even before it flowers. The leaves are, however, variable, as Welsh points out in his excellent A Utah Flora: "leaves 2-13 cm long, 5-48 (55) mm wide, glabrous, thick and usually strongly glaucous, the lower ones petioled, becoming sessile upward, the bases progressively broader, finally broadly connate-perfoliate near the inflorescence, usually sharply serrate, rarely subentire".

Penstemon palmeri
Penstemon palmeri is not only tall and eye-catching, but it also has an arresting and lovely scent. Because of these traits and its ease of growing from seeds, it has become a favorite of home gardeners. Southwest Seed Inc. of Dolores, Colorado grows fields of P. palmeri (and other natives) near Hovenweep National Monument, harvests the seeds, and sells them to home owners and agencies for revegetation projects.

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

Penstemon palmeri

Range map for Penstemon palmeri