Penstemon barbatus

Scarlet Penstemon - Penstemon barbatus
Railroad Canyon, Black Range, July 23, 2017

The Sawyer's Peak trail was a mass of Scarlet Penstemon, Penstemon barbatus, on August 24, 2014.  This is the species of Penstemon most commonly seen as one drives across the Black Range on NM-152.  It is not a rare plant.  It is a beautiful plant and when it is in mass it can be breathtaking.  It is also known as the Southwestern Beardtongue and/or Scarlet Bugler.  Here and northward into southern Colorado this plant is referred to as Varita de San Jose (St. Joseph's Staff).  Rufous Hummingbirds migrate south at the same time that this species reaches the height of its blooming and they actively feed and pollinate, indeed, we saw a number of hummers (including some Broad-tailed Hummingbirds) working the stands of Scarlet Penstemon along the trail.

The USDA recognizes three subspecies of Penstemon barbatus; P. b. barbatus, P. b. trichander (both with a common name of Beardlip Penstemon), and P. b. torreyi (Torrey’s Penstemon or Torrey’s Beardtongue).  Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness lists the nominate form and P. b. torreyi in this area.  P. b. torreyi was once considered a full species and P. b. barbatus was once described as P. b. puberulus.

Penstemon barbatus was first described by Antonio José Cavanilles who described it from specimens received from the new world.  He never left Europe.



© Robert Barnes 2018