Penstemon in PBS BX 162

Dennis Szeszko
Sun, 07 Jun 2009 19:22:43 PDT
Somebody wrote to me requesting an ID on some wild-collected seeds that I
provided to the PBS BX almost two years ago.  Below is a copy of his text
and my reply in case anybody else requested seeds from this seed lot.


I was one of the recipients of Penstemon seed from Texcoco that you
contributed to BX 162, in late 2007.

First, thanks for collecting it and sending it in. The plants are just
coming into flower now, about 3 feet tall and I suspect when fully open
they'll be spectacular. Amazingly, they spent last winter outside here -
the very NW corner of Arkansas, formerly a solid USDA zone 6 but now zone
7. I'd intended to bring them into the unheated portion of the greenhouse,
but somehow they were overlooked and sat in the seed trays on the ground.

They seem not to mind. Not only did they survive several nights of
temperatures around 10 F during the winter, but a horrendous ice storm in
late January that put an inch of ice on everything for several days, and
rainfall far above normal since it's warmed up. They've actually done
better with the bizarre weather than some things native to the area.

Do you have ideas about what species it might be? It's definitely a


I think that your plant is Penstemon barbatus (Cav.) Roth.  I made this
determination based on the smooth edges of the leaves (not serrated as in P.
campanulatus) and also because of the yellow filamentous hairs on the lower
lip of the flowers.  If you do a google search you will see a lot of
misidentified plants with this label because it is a parent of many hybrids,
but I'm confident of my ID after working through the key in the botanical
textbook "Flora fanerogamica del Valle de Mexico".

Texcoco is an area right outside of Mexico City located at around 2500-2600
meters above sea level. In the wild, I suspect that the plants would never
be exposed to freezing temperatures because they come from a subtropical
clilmate, but they do tolerate cool and cold conditions quite well.  The
only thing that I can add is that you should try to have VERY well drained
soil because the seeds of this plant were collected in rocky volcanic soil.


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