WILDFLOWERS OF NEW MEXICO

 

Wand-like, 1–3-foot tall, hairless, green to dark red, stems wave their spike of crimson flowers like flags to attract their favorite pollinators, hummingbirds. Note the gradually expanding flower tube with lower petal lobes that bend backwards to expose the stamens, and the hairless staminode (no beardtongue). Flowers are hairless, stems and leaves have a waxy covering.


FLOWERS: June–August. Rows of 1–1 1/2-inch long (25–38 mm), tubular flowers grow on short, branching stems (peduncles) in a loose array more or less on one side of the upper end of the flowering stems. The 2 upper lobes form a notched hood extending over the stamens. The bottom lobes, often with white stripes, curl sharply backwards, a distinguishing feature, and expose the 4 fertile stamens. The sterile stamen (staminode) against the bottom petal is hairless   and within the throat.


LEAVES: Basal rosette present during flowering; stem leaves opposite, 1 1/2–4-inches long (4–10 cm), less than 3/4-inch wide (10 mm), narrow, linear to lance-shaped, clasping, with entire margins; size smaller up the stem. A white waxy bloom covers the leaves and stems.


HABITAT: Sandy, rocky soils, roadsides, disturbed areas; pinyon-juniper-oak, ponderosa, spruce-fir forests.


ELEVATION: 4,500–9,700 feet.


RANGE: AZ, CO, NM, TX, UT.


SIMILAR SPECIES: New Mexico has three subspecies of P. barbatus: subsp. torreyi, widespread and the most common, has narrow leaves and a throat with no or only a few white hairs; subsp. barbatus, scattered in western NM and common in the Gila Mts., has lance-shaped leaves with wrinkled edges and a throat bearded with yellow hairs; subsp. trichander, common in the nw quarter of NM, has narrow leaves and a hairless throat, but with hairy anthers.


NM has 8 scarlet penstemons, most rare or with limited distribution in NM. The look-alike Beak-flowered Penstemon, P. rostrilforus, in the western mountains, has horseshoe-shaped, yellow anthers. Cardinal Penstemon, P. cardinalis, rare in se mountains, has broad heart-shaped leaves and flowers with a constricted opening like a purse with a drawstring partially closed. Firecracker Penstemon, P. eatonii, in the Four Corners, has a tubular flower with rounded, nearly equal lobes, no beardtongue, and no waxy covering on leaves. Alamo Penstemon, P. alamosensis, rare in se mountains, has flared, almost equal rounded lobes and a hairless staminode. Superb Penstemon, P. superbus, rare in sw mountains, has dense whorls of hairy, symmetrical flowers with golden-hairy staminodes. The pink to red Perfoliate Penstemon, P. pseduspectabilis, in the sw mountains, has upper leaves joined around the stem and symmetrical, rounded flower lobes.


NM COUNTIES: Widespread in mountains in NM at mid-elevation, moist habitats (absent in eastern plains): Bernalillo, Catron, Cibola, Colfax, Dona Ana, Eddy, Grant, Harding, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Los Alamos, Luna, McKinley, Mora, Otero, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Sierra, Socorro, Taos, Torrance, Union, Valencia.


NOTES: Traditionally, the Navajo considered this plant a “life medicine” and used it to treat wounds, burns, coughs, internal injuries, and menstrual pains. The Apache used it for magic and witchcraft, and the Zuni rubbed chewed roots on throwing sticks to insure successful rabbit hunting.

SCARLET  BUGLER,  RED  PENSTEMON

PENSTEMON  BARBATUS  SUBSP. TORREYI

Plantain Family, Plantaginaceae (formerly in Scrophulariaceae)

Perennial herb

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  1. The fertile stamens are under the hood-like upper lip (upper arrow), and the staminode is hairless and hidden inside the throat.

  2. The lower lip has striped nectar guides and bends sharply backwards (lower arrow).

Flowers grow mostly on one side of the stem.

Stem leaves are narrow, and basal leaves are usually present at blooming.

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