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Penstemon lentus
Penstemon lentus
Penstemon lentus

Penstemon lentus and Penstemon eatonii
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring.
Sand Canyon Trail, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 12, 2011 and May 21, 2013.

Click for photographs of Penstemon lentus variety albiflorus.

Penstemon lentus

Penstemon lentus variety lentus (Handsome Penstemon, Handsome Beardtongue). Synonym: Penstemon osterhoutii.
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 30, 2005 and May 13, 2004.

Light green, clasping, lance-like and nearly vertical leaves and widely spreading flower lips are characteristics of this local Penstemon. The basal leaves over-winter and are quite evident as one walks trails in the winter and early spring. Flower color varies Penstemon lentusfrom lilac to violet to violet-pink.  This is a robust Penstemon with firm and stout stems commonly growing to twenty inches in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Penstemon lentus is found only in a few counties in the Four Corners area.  The plant was named by Francis Pennell in 1920 from a collection that Charles Baker made in Archuleta County, Colorado, in June of 1899.  The Latin "lentus" can mean "tough, resistant, tenacious, supple, pliant, sticky".  Exactly what Pennell meant by this specific epithet is not known.

Click for photographs of Penstemon lentus variety albiflorus, a variety found only in the Abajo Mountains of San Juan County, Utah.

For many years Colorado flora experts incorrectly identified this species as the very similar Penstemon osterhoutii, a rare species of northwestern Colorado. See the maps below.

 

Penstemon lentus

Penstemon lentus

Penstemon lentus variety lentus (Handsome Penstemon, Handsome Beardtongue). Synonym: Penstemon osterhoutii.
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2009.

Very light striping confined to the interior of the corolla can be seen in the fully opened flowers.

Penstemon lentus

Penstemon lentus variety lentus (Handsome Penstemon, Handsome Beardtongue). Synonym: Penstemon osterhoutii.
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2009.

Although botanical authorities indicate that P. lentus is "more or less" or "usually" secund (flowers arranged to one side of the stem), I often find the species appearing as the photograph at left shows them, i.e., on varying sides of the stem, or with a few secund, especially toward the bottom of the stem.

Penstemon lentus

Penstemon lentus variety lentus (Handsome Penstemon, Handsome Beardtongue). Synonym: Penstemon osterhoutii.
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 30, 2005.

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 lentus

Range map for Penstemon lentus variety lentus

Penstemon lentus variety albiflorus

Range map for Penstemon lentus variety albiflorus

Range map for Penstemon osterhoutii