just an excuse to start talking

“Do you ever stop talking?” my wife would ask, and then I would tell her that everything I said was fascinating and she should listen.

At which point she would walk away.

I did make a New Year’s resolution to talk less, but then I bought a camera and that seemed like a good enough reason to start a blog again. The pictures are just an excuse to start talking. The sun was shining, and penstemon pictures always get washed out in the sun, but I had to take pictures so I could talk. I can’t help myself.

Penstemon brandegei, native to the plains of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. It’s bluer than this in real life.

(“If it’s not the right color, then why post its picture?” Go back and start reading from the beginning.)

I found it strange that this plant was called “Penstemon alpinus” when it grows on the plains and P. alpinus is a 6 inch tall thing you can see on the road to Mount Evans and similar places. It was even described as such. I mean, alpinus, alpine; it’s not that hard. The plant pictured is huge, 3 feet by 3 feet when really happy, and you’d definitely notice a thing like that growing near timberline.

When I was writing the penstemon book, I wondered about this, and asked Bill Jennings of the Colorado Native Plant Society what he thought. Pennell, in his 1920 monograph on the Scrophulariaceae of the Central Rocky Mountain States, thought it a good species, distinct from Penstemon alpinus and P. glaber, so what had happened to it since?

Why, in fact, should half the species in the Rocky Mountain region be subspecies or varieties of something else, when it isn’t that way elsewhere? How come we don’t get to have our own species, too?

Bill suggested that a lot of botanists tend to split species close to home, and lump them the further away they get from their home territory, and after he did a lot of field work (better him than me; I’m not very meticulous), came to the conclusion that the blue monster that grows in my front yard was a valid species, distinct from the other two with which it’s often lumped. So, thanks to Bill, I call it Penstemon brandegei.

Oh, one other thing. Self-sown penstemons seem to have better resistance to drought, heat, and disease than potted plants growing in an organic-based soil-less mix. They get their roots “right” that way. Buy plants, wash off the nursery stuff, plant them, and let them go to seed.

I had something else fascinating to say, but now I forget what it was.

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