• Double O Arch


    National Park Utah

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Bluestem Penstemon (Dusty Penstemon)

Penstemon cyanocaulis

Penstemon cyanocaulis

Family: Scrophulariaceae – Figwort Family

Perennial herbs; some parasitic or semi-parasitic; 7.87” to 1.5' (2 to 4.5 decimeters) tall

Leaves: opposite and basal; simple; leaf margins curled or wavy; 0.6” to 4.8” (1.5 to 12 cm) long; 0.08” to 1.2” (2 to 30 mm) wide

Flowers: 5 blue or lavender lobed united tubular petals (irregular flowers with upper lip 2 lobed, lower lip 3 lobed), 5 tubular sepals at least partially united; 4 fertile stamens, a fifth stamen is sterile; flowers 0.64” to 0.96” (16 to 24 mm) long

Pollinators: other genera in this family are pollinated by insects (specifically bees, flies, moths and butterflies) and hummingbirds

Fruits: 2 chambered capsule (dry fruit)

Blooms in Arches National Park: April, May, June

Habitat in Arches National Park: desert shrub and pinyon-juniper communites; mostly in sandy soil

Location seen: Windows primitive trail, park road in Salt Valley, outside Arches National Park above Ken's Lake

Other: The genus name, “Penstemon”, is from the Greek “pen” which means “almost” and "stemon" which means “thread” which refers to the stamens (only 4 of the 5 stamens produce pollen; the fifth stamen is sterile, so it is almost a stamen). The species name, “cyanocaulis”, is from the Greek “kyanos” which means “blue” and “caulis” which means “stem”.

The genus Penstemon is large and complex. The family is important because it has many ornamentals and cardiac glycosides can be derived from foxglove.

Did You Know?

Ed Abbey

Edward Abbey worked as a seasonal park ranger at Arches in the late 1950s. His 1968 memoir of this experience, "Desert Solitaire," has become a classic of desert literature.