Penstemon eatoni - the Eaton Firecracker or Firecracker Penstemon

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Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14
Penstemon eatoni - the Eaton Firecracker or Firecracker Penstemon

Sometimes Penstemon barbatus and Penstemon eatoni get confused, both being tall scarlet-flowered penstemons. I don't currently have a good photograph of Penstemon barbatus, but I'm showing a couple photos of Penstemon eatonii taken in my garden in 2009. These photos are slightly out of focus, sorry about that, but at least they depict the downcurved-arched disposition of the flowers on Penstemon eatonii, as opposed to the straight "shark-tubes" of P. barbatus. If any forumists have a good photo of P. barbatus, in any of its color forms, please post them here.

USDA Information page:
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PEEA

Lots of excellent detailed photos on the CalPhotos site:
http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?query_src=photos_index&where...

This gorgeous photo clearly shows the downcurved arch shape of the flowers on the Eaton Firecracker:
http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+1207+0692

Nicholls
Title: Guest
Joined: 2009-10-07

Hi Mark, I just popped down the garden and photographed the flowers, perhaps this helps more.
regards
Graham

Kelaidis
Kelaidis's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03

Something about your plant doesn't look quite right: for one thing, Penstemon eatonii usually blooms in spring: this .jpg was taken early last May near Moab: you can see it was in full bloom two months ago.

http://s979.photobucket.com/albums/ae272/kelaidis/Moab%202010/?action=vi...
http://s979.photobucket.com/albums/ae272/kelaidis/Moab%202010/?action=vi...

There are numerous red penstemons actually. P. barbatus is immediately diagnostic because of the reflexed lower petals.

I think your's is more apt to be Penstemon centranthifolius, which also has tubular flowers and a somewhat different habit. Bobbie! Where are you?

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I love a good mystery ;D  Just spent the last two hours combing through web sites, floras, and the Lodewick Penstemon Field Identifiers.  I'm still leaning towards P.eatonii on my plant, although certainly P. centhranthifolius is VERY close to it. Finally found a photo I took in May this year, so uploaded this clearer photo here.

Regarding flower time, it seems that it is quite variable, depending on where it is found in its relatively vast range through much of Western USA.  Many of the USDA and CalPhotos images have detail info giving the date the photos are taken, and they seem to run the gamut.  Mine flowered in May, just found a photo missed in my first search for an image, taken in May 2010. 

The other thing to consider in this sleuthing, P. eatonii has 3 subspecies described, found in 8 Western USA states, thus probably displaying great variability.  Penstemon centhanthifolius is endemic to California.
USDA plant information on P. centranthifolius:
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PECE2
County-based distribution of P. centranthifolius in California:
http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/get_county_map.pl?taxon_id=36894&hcod...

Judging from the anther shapes depicted in the Penstemon Field Identifiers, the split anthers more closely resemble P. eatonii than centranthifolius.  I plucked the dried remains of a single flower off an aberrant partial reflowering (top of the stem with seed pods elongated and sputtered forth a few more flowers, finishing up around July 4th), then scanned it.  One can see the split anther.... whether the shape changes in drying while not in a controlled environment, I don't know... it's just another clue.

More links
Penstemon eatonii -Sotheastern Arizona Wildflowers
http://www.fireflyforest.com/flowers/8/penstemon-eatonii-firecracker-pen...

Las Pilitas nursery - clickable images of P. centranthifolius
http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/penstemon-centrant...

CalPhotos on P. centranthifolius
*Note*- it is possible that some photos on the CalPhotos site are misidentified; with the genus Allium I know this to be true.  One characteristic of P. centranthifolius is that the flowers are on "open racemes", that is, they can face any direction, whereas in P. eatonii they are "secund" or mostly facing the same direction jn each raceme.  Some of the photos here of P. centranthifolius show flowers all around the stem.
http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?where-taxon=Penstemon+centra...

There is something about the visual "feel of the plant" that speaks P. eatonii to me versus P. centranthifolius, but I'll keep an open mind, and will scrutinize the fresh flowers next year.

PS: my source is NARGS Seedex 2005

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

penstemon
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-06-24

The red flowered plants are Penstemon eatonii, which has green leaves. The pinkish one is P. barbatus. The "sharkshead" flower with recurved lower lobes is diagnostic. (The are some others that fit this description but the existence of them in horticulture is unlikely)
P. centranthifolius has glaucous leaves and red flowers with no lobes (no place for anything to land on).

Bob

extreme western edge of Denver, Colorado; elevation 1705.6 meters, average annual precipitation 30cm; refuses to look at thermometer if it threatens to go below -17C

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Thanks Bob.  Forgot to mention checking out both species in your book too (Penstemons, http://www.amazon.com/Penstemons-Robert-Nold/dp/0881924296), and the color plate of P. eatonii shows a very nice plant indeed, perhaps with better looking foliage than in mine. What I find distinctive about this species, is how the flowers are so downfacing *and* arching in their downward projection... clearly seen in Plate 24 in your book.

Here's a photo of the cauline foliage.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Kelaidis
Kelaidis's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03

Okay: if Bob says it's eatonii, I defer...

Below is a picture of the strange swarm of Penstemon barbatus in full bloom as we speak in Sacred Earth, the Ethnobotanical garden at Denver Botanic Gardens...

Nifty, no?

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Kelaidis wrote:

Okay: if Bob says it's eatonii, I defer...

Below is a picture of the strange swarm of Penstemon barbatus in full bloom as we speak in Sacred Earth, the Ethnobotanical garden at Denver Botanic Gardens...

Nifty, no?

Panayoti, not having seen the species in the wild, and only familiar with it in cultivation, what characteristics about the "strange swarm" make it strange?  Looks like some light colored forms there.  When I was doing my armchair botanizing yesterday, I came across Penstemon barbatus 'Schooley's Coral'... looks like a nice color selection.
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/75714/

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

penstemon
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-06-24

"Schooley's Coral" is nice, though not entirely willing to come back in spectacular fashion after one winter (just like 'Schooley's Yellow'). This year I planted "Coral Baby" which is a beauty.
The cauline leaves on barbatus are linear; the upper ones are about 2mm across.
I just woke up, but it strikes my not-totally-caffeinated mind that the hybrids of Penstemon barbatus are much less reliable as garden plants than the species pur sang. Regular barbatus seeds around here and flowers as though it were a weed.
Part of this may be the nght-and-day difference between a plant grown in a pot and a plant growing as nature intended, from seed. Not that there's anything wrong with potted plants, but they do start out in an unnatural condition, with a "root ball", something never found in nature.

Bob

extreme western edge of Denver, Colorado; elevation 1705.6 meters, average annual precipitation 30cm; refuses to look at thermometer if it threatens to go below -17C

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

I have a minor anomaly in my yard - P. barbatus hybrids (or so I assume them to be, given the shark's mouth flower shape) in all shades of pink through purple, seed around with abandon (which I find delightful!)  I've yet to find a seedling of the species, however!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

Just thought I'd throw up a couple of closeups of Penstemon eatonii and  Penstemon barbatus.

First P. eatonii then P. barbatus

From the High Desert Steppe
of the Great Basin and the Eastern
Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range
Located in Reno/Sparks,NV  zone 6-7
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sierrarainshadow/
John P Weiser

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