Wildflower of the Week by Chick Keller

The flower this week is again two:  purple (P.strictrus) and scarlet (P. barbatus) penstemon. They are showing sparingly all around our woods—a spike of purple or scarlet flowers by the trail or off among the other plants.  Always a welcome sight.  We have some six rather common penstemons in the county: james’, whipple’s, one-sided, spike (or wandbloom), purple, red and slender (the little blue and white on on Dot Grant Trail near the cemetery), and a few other rare ones (Glabra and anguvstifolia).  
Our scarlet one is perhaps appropriate for this week because its common name is firecracker penstemon!  It has the curious flower shape that it has two lower lip-like structures that are ‘reflexed’ that is, bend backwards.  So it looks like a long hood with these two ‘petals’ below it. The purple one is not strictly native to our area but is native elsewhere in the state. Here it has been both planted and escaped from cultivation and has established itself in many places around the Town Site—probably not in White Rock.  It shows many flowers on a spike that are deep purple—usually quite a robust plant—very showy. Try to find all our penstemons.  James and one-sided are pretty much done blooming, but fragile and spike are in full bloom and whipple’s (found higher up) is soon to start.  Enjoy.
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