Penstemon virgatus - 1

Wandbloom Penstemon - Penstemon virgatus virgatus
Carbonate Creek Canyon Black Range, NM, USA 
July 27, 2015
Photograph above and next two.

The flower is a Penstemon virgatus virgatus, Wandbloom Penstemon and it is typically found at slightly higher elevations.  English common names for Penstemon virgatus include; Wandbloom Penstemon, Blue Beardtongue, Upright Blue Beardtongue, Dark Blue Penstemon, Foothill Penstemon, Dark-blue Penstemon, One-side Penstemon, Tall Penstemon, and Upright Blue Penstemon.  It has no scientific synonyms.  There are two accepted varieties; P v. var. asa-grayi (Upland Blue Beardtongue) is found on the eastern slope of the Rockies in Colorado (and perhaps elsewhere), and P. v. virgatus (Upright Blue Beardtongue).

The BONAP map to the right shows the range of this species in North America.  Light green means that the species is native and “not rare” in the county indicated.  Yellow indicates that the species is rare in that county.

The Xerces Society recognizes this species as one of special value because it is a strong attractor for native bees.  It is also pollinated by Hummingbirds.  Pollen is transferred by the plant to the top side of the pollinator.

Penstemon virgatus was first described by Asa Gray.

Paul Vestal (1952) notes that this species was used as “life medicine” (a panacea) by the Ramah Navajo.  See p. 45 of “The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho”, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology 40(4):1-94.  Modern folk medicine claims that if the “fresh plant is ground and combined with vegetable oil and beeswax, to produce a salve... it is useful for skin irritations and as a lip balm.”

Wandbloom Penstemon - Penstemon virgatus 
September 18, 2017 
Mineral Creek, East side of the Black Range
Photograph immediately above and all below.

Forest Road 157, East slope of Bald Hill, Black Range
August 18, 2019
Photographs immediately above and below


The specimen shown here was gathered as part of the United States - Mexico International Boundary Survey.  Details are slight, except that it was “collected under the direction of Major W. H. Emory, Commissioner, chiefly in the Valley of the Rio Grande, below Doñana - by C. C. Parry, M.D., J. M. Bigelow, M.D., Mr. Charles Wright, and Mr. A. Schott.”  This is the nominate subspecies.  As Russ Kleinman notes at the “Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness” website, the deep purple guidelines on the inside of the flower disappear in dried herbarium specimens.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023