Penstemon harringtonii
Author: Penl.

Harrington beardtongue

Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Close up of Penstemon harringtonii by Peggy Lyon.
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Close up of Penstemon harringtonii by Pam Smith.
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Close up of Penstemon harringtonii by Pam Smith.
Click image to enlarge.

Ranks and Status

Global rank: G3
State rank: S3
Federal protection status: USFS Sensitive, BLM Sensitive
State protection status: None

[+] Description and Phenology

Please see 1997 profile.

General description: Plants perennial, 30-70 cm tall. Stems glabrous and glaucus. Flowers in loose spike with 2 exserted stamens. Corolla deep blue to pinkish lavender (Spackman et al. 1997, Ackerfield 2015).

Look Alikes: Penstemon osterhoutii anther sacs are widely divaricate and stamens are not or scarcely exserted. Penstemon cyathophorus has 4 stamens exserted. Penstemon watsonii staminode is not or just exserted. Penstemon harringtonii has 2 exserted stamens, and anther sacs are sagittate with parallel sacs (Spackman et al. 1997).

Phenology: Begins flowering in early June of most years and continues until late June at higher elevation sites. The development of fruit proceeds through late August; capsules dehise beginning at that time, and much seed seems to have been dispersed by September, but the capsules remain on the plant indefinitely (Buckner and Bunin 1992).

[+] Habitat

Habitat of Penstemon harringtonii courtesy of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
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Open sagebrush or, less commonly, pinyon-juniper habitats, on gentle slopes. Soils are typically rocky loams and rocky clay loams derived from coarse calcareous parent materials (Spackman et al. 1997).  Associated species include: Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana, A. tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Juniperus osteosperma, Cercocarpus montanus, Amelanchier utahensis, Quercus gambelii (Gambel’s oak), Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus (yellow rabbitbrush), C. nauseosus (rubber rabbitbrush), Phlox hoodii (spiny phlox), Castilleja flava (yellow Indian paintbrush), Eriogonum umbellatum (sulphur flower buckwheat), Heterotheca villosa (hairy goldenaster), Mahonia repens (Oregon grape), Oreocarya flava (yellow cats-eye), Penstemon caespitosus (mat penstemon), P. strictus (Rocky Mountain penstemon), Poa fendleriana (muttongrass), Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass), Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass), Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass), Koeleria macrantha (junegrass), Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread grass), and Elymus elymoides (Spackman and Anderson  2006).

Elevation Range: 6,243 - 9,416 feet (1,903 - 2,870 meters)

[+] Distribution

Distribution of Penstemon harringtonii in Colorado according to mapped land ownership/management boundaries (CNHP 2015, COMaP v9). City, State Land Board, and State Parks are each less than 1%.
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Distribution of Penstemon harringtonii in Colorado.
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Colorado endemic: Yes
Global range: Colorado endemic. Known from Grand, Eagle, Routt, Garfield, Pitkin, and Summit counties. Estimated range is 5,397 square kilometers (2,084 square miles), calculated by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in 2008 in GIS by drawing a minimum convex polygon around the known occurrences.

[+] Threats and Management Issues

Summary results of an analysis of the status of Penstemon harringtonii based on several ranking factors. This species was concluded to be "Moderately Conserved”. From Rondeau et al. 2011.
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The threats to the persistence of Penstemon harringtonii include residential and agricultural development, off-road vehicle use, exotic plant species invasion, over-grazing by domestic and wild ungulates, oil and gas development, and climate change (Panjabi and Anderson 2006). Residential development is considered to be the primary threat to the species at this time (Rondeau et al. 2011).

[+] References

    • Ackerfield, J. 2015. Flora of Colorado. Brit Press, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, TX. 818 pp.
    • Buckner, D. L. and J. E. Bunin. 1992. Final report: 1990/91 Status Report for Penstemon harringtonii. Unpublished Report Prepared for Colorado Natural Areas Program, Denver, CO by Esco Associates, Inc., Boulder, CO.
    • Dawson, C. 2009. Personal communication with Colorado Natural Heritage Program staff regarding BLM rare plant monitoring in Colorado.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
    • O'Kane, S. L. 1988. Colorado's Rare Flora. Great Basin Naturalist. 48(4):434-484.
    • Panjabi, S.S. and D.G. Anderson. 2006. Penstemon harringtonii Penland (Harrington's beardtongue): a technical conservation assessment. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. []
    • Penland, C.W.T. 1958. Two New Species of Penstemon in Colorado. Madrono. 14:153-160.
    • Rondeau, R., K. Decker, J. Handwerk, J. Siemers, L. Grunau, and C. Pague. 2011. The state of Colorado's biodiversity 2011. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
    • Spackman, S., B. Jennings, J. Coles, C. Dawson, M. Minton, A. Kratz, and C. Spurrier. 1997. Colorado rare plant field guide. Prepared for Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
    • USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
    • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Western Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 532 pp.

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