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Penstemon whippleanus
Penstemon whippleanus
Penstemon whippleanus
Penstemon whippleanus (Whipple's Penstemon, Whipple's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, openings.  Summer.
Above: Cross Mountain Trail, July 23, 2016 and Bolam Lake, August 15, 2014.
Left: Road to Spiller-Helmet Ridge, August 8, 2005.

On walks along high mountain trails it is common to see a tall plant that appears to have tiny purple flowers at its very top.  A closer look shows these purple splashes of color to be minute, drooping, thin buds.  They puzzle wildflower admirers.  But once the buds swell and burst open there is no question.  Penstemon whippleanus has about as rich a color and as showy a cluster as any flower.  

A close look at the flower will show silvery white stripes through the purple and a multitude of shining hairs on the flower surface.  The hairs impart a silvery sheen to the sunlit flowers.  In certain areas flower color can also range from white to light blue. See below.

Penstemon whippleanus was collected by John Bigelow in the Sandia Mountains near present-day Albuquerque in 1853, and it was named by Asa Gray in 1862.  Bigelow, who has a number of plants named for him, was a member of Lt. Amiel Whipple's expedition surveying for a transcontinental railroad route along the 35th parallel.  (More biographical information about Whipple.)

Penstemon whippleanus
Penstemon whippleanus (Whipple's Penstemon, Whipple's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, openings.  Summer.
El Diente Trail, July 2, 2004.

Penstemon whippleanus
Penstemon whippleanus (Whipple's Penstemon, Whipple's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, openings.  Summer.
Colorado Trail, September 7, 2007.

Basal leaves are in masses and they are long-petioled, thick, and leathery.

 

Penstemon whippleanus

 

 

 

 

Penstemon whippleanus (Whipple's Penstemon, Whipple's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, openings.  Summer.
Grand Mesa, July 11, 2017.

P. whippleanus flowers are almost always deep purple in the most western mountains of the San Juan Range and in the Abajo Mountains of Utah, but on Grand Mesa most plants sport creamy-white flowers that have only small hints of purple.

                                 Penstemon whippleanus

Penstemon whippleanus

 

 

 

 

Penstemon whippleanus (Whipple's Penstemon, Whipple's Beardtongue)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)
, formerly Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, openings.  Summer.
Near American Basin, July 24, 2007.

Between Silverton and Lake City, near American Basin, one finds flowers with light lilac and blue flowers.

                   Penstemon whippleanus

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 whippleanus