Penstemon whippleanus

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

It is to my amazement that no one has yet posted a thread on this most-sought-after of penstemons, Penstemon whippleanus, so here goes.
It took years of trying, but I finally hit it right - the seedex seeds actually turned out to be P. whippleanus - not the finest, darkest colour, perhaps, but a breakthrough, nonetheless! :D

It was kind of fun to key it out (successfully, I think):
1, 2) Purple flowers, with very elongated lower lip with sparse yellow beard; characteristic "leafy" inflorescence (an impression given by long, tapering calyx lobes); inflorescence nodding in bud
3, 4) Basal leaves often elliptic, to 90mm and ~1/3 as wide; upper leaves to 60mm and ~1/4 as wide; leaves usually entire (but very slightly, finely toothed on these plants)
5) Anther sacs open across the connective and out to the ends; navicular (boat-shaped) and glaucous
6) Staminode with very sparse yellow beard (sometimes not bearded)

References: Key to the Genus Penstemon - R. and K. Lodewick
Penstemons - R. Nold

I'd love to see what specimens others are growing, or have encountered in the wild of this species.

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

Lori, a fine example on how such postings can serve as an identification guide, particularly useful on plant species that are often misidentified.  I only grew this once, in a rather dull flower color, but would like to grow a deep color form some day.  Did you see the seed offering at Alplains?  The sell seed of a near black-flowered form!

http://www.alplains.com/images/PentWhipple.jpg

Here's what they say about it:  "Mineral Co., CO, 10860ft, 3311m.  This population has the darkest flowers I've ever seen in this genus -- dark purple to literally black"

http://www.alplains.com/

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

HughGmail
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-07-08

Lori

You may wish to use an online reference on the American Penstemon Society website at http://apsdev.org when identifying Penstemon.  I created a database for the society and we laboriously entered data (Ginny Maffitt was the primary contributor of time and research) based on references by Nold, Holmgren, Lodewick, etc. 

Navigate to IDENTIFICATION > DESCRIPTIONS and then pick the species from the drop down list.

Here's a sample for you!  http://apsdev.org/identification/descriptions.php?whichspecies_name=whip...

Hugh Mac Millan
Former NARGS Web Master, Moderator
Eriogonum enthusiast
Zone 5+- - Front Range, Colorado (Denver area)

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

Hugh wrote:

You may wish to use an online reference on the American Penstemon Society website at http://apsdev.org when identifying Penstemon.  I created a database for the society and we laboriously entered data (Ginny Maffitt was the primary contributor of time and research) based on references by Nold, Holmgren, Lodewick, etc. 

Navigate to IDENTIFICATION > DESCRIPTIONS and then pick the species from the drop down list.

Here's a sample for you!  http://apsdev.org/identification/descriptions.php?whichspecies_name=whip...

What an AWESOME resource, thanks Hugh for calling our attention to this, and for laboring on creating the database.  I shall be using this regularly now that I'm aware of it :D :D :D

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

Boland
Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

I have several mis-IDed penstemon that I might now be able to name.  Thanks for the link Hugh.

Lori, I have about 7 nice seedlings from the whippleanus seed you sent last fall.  I grew it years ago and it survived about 4 years.  This winter, after 16 years, my P. cardwellii kicked the bucket...it was huge!  Thankfully I propagated it for MUNBG and the one there is fine so I have a backup. The advantage of working at a BG..I give them bits and pieces of my plants as backups in case mine should die!

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Weintraub
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-24

It seems that P. whippleanus should do well in Newfoundland with decent drainage as it is a subalpine here (9000-12500 feet). I have a favorite location from which to collect seed from deep burgundy to nearly black flowering plants, but it's a long and tiring drive. Anyone visiting is welcome to join me on a field trip to the top of the pass.

Barbara Weintraub
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
6700 feet elevation - high and dry
nominally zone 5b; i think it's closer to 6a

HughGmail
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-07-08

We also plan on updating the penstemon database mentioned earlier in this thread.  The updates should start appearing in the late June and August time frame (after the meeting in Salida is finished) when we have more time to add some entries and pictures. 

Hugh Mac Millan
Former NARGS Web Master, Moderator
Eriogonum enthusiast
Zone 5+- - Front Range, Colorado (Denver area)

Bowden
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-04-08

I grew Penstemon whippleanus a few years ago.  Like Mark's, it turned out to be such a disappointing dull color I didn't keep it.  Maybe we had gotten the same seed (NARGS).  I had hoped for one of those deep wine to almost black ones.  Loris plant makes me want to try it again.  It wasn't difficult in W. Pennsylvania, hardy in a trough with good drainage.

Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

I have had no luck keeping it through the winter as of yet.  :-[
I don't know what is causing it to winter kill. I grow many other Pents from all over, both high and low elevation species and never have this problem. I will keep trying as I saw wonderful specimens years ago, growing around the Vail area of Colorado. Soft creams and rich purples. The contrasts of between the two color forms were very striking.

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

penstemon
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-06-24

There is a picture of Alan's dark form here.
http://www.wildgingerfarm.com/Penstemon.htm just scroll down to the bottom.
I recall only one attempt to grow this in the garden here; it likes lots of water. Everywhere I've seen it, it pretty much actually grows in water, at the base of roadcuts.
Unlike P. hallii, or P. ambiguus for that matter, I've never seen what looked like really old specimens of whippleanus in the wild. A lot of penstemons are programmed to behave like biennials, or at least to be monocarpic, if conditions are unfavorable for long life.
As with the monsoonal penstemons (and agastaches, etc.) failure to provide enough moisture so that the plants have a tuft of basal leaves going into the winter will usually do them in. I know this from bitter experience.

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

Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

I will be sure and try it in a spot that stays damp through the fall. There is a good chance I am cutting of it's moisture supply too early.
I usually stop my drip irrigation system by late August -early September to allow the Cacti and Agave time to harden off before dormancy. The true cold hard cacti are programed to stop taking on water when the day length grows shorter, but the marginally hard ones need some coaxing. 

Thank you Bob for reminding me that I read this in your book "High and Dry"

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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