Fendler’s Penstemon, Penstemon fendleri is a beautiful, tall plant found in West Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Western Kansas and extends down into Central Mexico. The plant pictured here was about 24 inches tall but they can grow taller. Their gray green smooth leaves cup themselves around the flower stalk opposite one another making a very distinctive look for these plants. About midway down the stem of this specimen, you can see flowers growing within this protected space. The flower stems arise from the leaf axil, which is where the leaf attaches to the main stem.
In this image you can see a closer view of the trumpet shaped flowers made of 5 fused petals. The lavender color of these petals is a helpful character for identifying members of this species. By looking into the flower in the center of this image, you can see the dark, reddish-purple stripes inside the flower. You can also see the yellow structure that looks like a tongue in the center of the flower. Somebody, a long time ago, thought this structure resembled a bearded tongue and the genus Penstemon contains plants that have this characteristic.
Fendler’s Penstemon, a member of the Scrophulariaceae or Figwort family, likes dry prairies and lower elevations of the mountains where the soils are rich in limestone. Their small, trumpet shaped lavender flowers with a dark purple accent stripes and the “bearded tongue” make this plant easily identified. The gray green leaves cupping the stem sporting purple flowers from their “cradle” is unmistakable. They are a unique, colorful addition to the wildflowers of West Texas.