Thursday, May 22, 2014

Penstemon petiolatus - at last!

Last weekend I was in Utah for the American Penstemon Society meeting. We stayed in Springdale, Utah - the gateway to Zion National Park.  Field trips included hikes in Zion National Park, a road trip to visit unusual and rare species of Penstemon, and a Monday excursion to visit some of the more unique species that occur in Utah.

One of the highlights for me was Penstemon petiolatus - a species that is endemic to limestone outcrops.  Limestone outcrops - the kind that are weathered and razor sharp, that is. One would not want to slip and fall on this substrate - you'd be suffering some dramatic lacerations. Needless-to-say, I was very careful to be balanced and step very carefully.

 My colleague, Mike Stevens, refers to P. petiolatus as "skidmark penstemon" - that's because you slam on the brakes when you spot it from the road. It truly is a stunning species, and I very much wish I had collected it back in the 1990s when I was trying to find it in Nevada. I didn't have success then, which meant that it could not be in my phylogenetic study of the genus. It is the only member of section Peltanthera subsection Petiolati, and that was the only subsection that wasn't represented in the study my lab published in 2006. 

We visited the Beaver Dam Mountains of Utah to see this species.  The plants were easily seen on a limestone outcrop.  On the side facing the road, the plants were scattered over the north face. Climbing over the top and onto the other side, though, revealed an amazing garden of Penstemon petiolatus and some barrel cacti. What a feast for the eyes!

For more information about this interesting species, check out my Penstemon of the day: Penstemon petiolatus blog post at News from Andi Wolfe's Lab.

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