Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Penstemon murrayanus

with 22 comments

Penstemon murrayanus Flowering 1641

Over the last couple of months you’ve seen two species in the genus Penstemon: P. buckleyi from west Texas and P. cobaea from a little northwest of Austin. Now joining them from Bastrop State Park is Penstemon murrayanus, called scarlet beardtongue, red penstemon, scarlet penstemon, cupleaf beardtongue, and cupleaf penstemon. The cupleaf in the last two of those names refers to the depression at the center of each of the pale gray-green leaves clasping the plant’s flower stalk. Note the drops of drizzle; this was the hardest they came down, and then fortunately they stopped.

Today’s photograph is yet another from an April 27th field trip led by botanist Bill Carr. Even though Penstemon is in a different botanical family from the sages, this plant reminds me of the cedar sage I showed you last month.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2014 at 6:02 AM

22 Responses

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  1. A hummingbird’s paradise…


    June 26, 2014 at 7:35 AM

  2. Those leaves are amazing. I can’t quite get a fix on them. Do they grow directly from the stem with no single point of attachment? It surely does look that way. I can’t remember ever seeing a circular leaf before.


    June 26, 2014 at 7:54 AM

  3. I did notice the drizzle. The leaves are intriguing, as Linda says.


    June 26, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    • In my reply to her I said: “There’s even a word for it: perfoliate. That describes an arrangement in which a stem grows through (per) a leaf (folium), so you’re correct that there is a ring of attachment rather than a single point. It’s not as rare an arrangement as you might imagine; I can think of two other local species in different botanical families that have it.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2014 at 9:18 AM

  4. When I first saw this I thought of a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). I love those perfoliate leaves. My favorite wildflower in my yard is the Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) which has perfoliate leafage although not round and cuplike and is related to the Joe Pye Weed (also a Eupatorium species) and neither of which are related to your Penstemon which is related to the Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) which may show up on my blog soon if not too copycattish of me.

    Steve Gingold

    June 26, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    • Copycat away, my friend, there’s no copyright on genera and species.

      I’m aware of Eupatorium perfoliatum, and although it’s found over much of the eastern and central United States, including parts of east Texas, it doesn’t quite make it to Austin. I’m glad you’ve gotten to enjoy it in Massachusetts.

      Because of the drought in Texas these past few years I’ve barely seen any cardinal flowers in Austin during that period, and therefore no picture of one has appeared here. With enough rain maybe I’ll find some again as we approach fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2014 at 4:48 PM

  5. Your photograph is gorgeous…I am such a huge Penstemon fan. I have several in the garden and the hummingbirds love them.

  6. What a beautiful penstemon! I didn’t realize there was a scarlet species!


    June 27, 2014 at 12:06 AM

  7. i wish i could be online more often to enjoy every single post that you make! i think this grows in costa rica in the dry rain forest.. i absently refer to it as a wild salvia and have always wanted to stop long enough to make a watercolor study..


    • I’m sorry you can’t make it online more often, Lisa. As for this species, it’s not likely to be what you’ve seen in Costa Rica, because this penstemon is native to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Of course it could be an exotic in Costa Rica, but I’d be surprised. There are various salvias that have similar flowers, and perhaps it’s one of those that you’ve seen. Whatever it is, I hope you’ll be able to make your watercolor of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2014 at 1:14 PM

  8. Well I only know the cultivars of this plant, but they are little beauties – I still have one in flower in my garden which has been flowering since June. I would love to plant some more and apparently the ones with the narrow leaves are the most tolerant of cold weather.


    December 7, 2016 at 1:18 PM

    • I had no idea that cultivars of this species have made it across the ocean. I’ll bet by now they speak with a British rather than a Texan accent.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2016 at 4:19 PM

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