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Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)
Perennial Forbs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Firecracker

General: Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) is a perennial forb with a tuft of leaves on the ground and several knee to thigh-high, upright stems that bear red, tubular flowers. The flowers have five "petals" at the opening of the tube. The "petals" are actually asymmetrical lobes, with two lobes up and three lobes down. All of the lobes point outward (as if the flower is not fully open). Two of the four anthers, plus the stigma (looks like a filament without an anther), protrude slightly. The staminode is slightly bearded (sometimes naked), but does not stick out of the flower tube. The anther sacs are tubular and open on the end.

Around Las Vegas, compare with Utah Penstemon, but an aid to identifying Firecracker Penstemon is that the flowers tend to come off one side of the stem and all point in same direction.

Firecracker Penstemon is a fairly common component of desert vegetation communities in dry, well-drained gravelly areas in the lower mountains in the Upper Sonoran (Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) and Transition (Yellow Pine Forest) life zones. This species is fairly common on roadsides.

Firecracker

Family: Figwort (Scrophulariaceae). Recent genetic research suggests that Penstemon should be included in the Plantaginaceae.

Other Names:

Plant Form: Several upright stems all arising from a tuft of leaves on the ground.

Height: Flowering stalk to about 3 feet.

Stems: Round, tends to be red.

Leaves: Lower leaves to about 4-inches long, somewhat elliptical (lanceolate to ovate), flat (not obviously folded along the center line). Leaves on flowering stems (cauline leaves) opposite, triangular, generally not clasping around the stem.

Firecracker

Flowers: Blooms late spring and early summer. Flowers tubular, but complex and bilaterally symmetrical; red to purple, flower tube with 5 lobes (upper lip with 2-lobes, lower lip with 3). Lobes point outward (not folding back).

Seeds: Fruit: oblong capsule. Seeds: small, black.

Habitat: Dry, well-drained sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils in higher desert habitat and into the middle-elevation mountain habitats.

Elevation: About 5,000 to 9,000 feet.

Distribution: Southern California desert mountains to Colorado and New Mexico.

Comments: This is a fairly common species at Red Rock Canyon and on Mt. Charleston.

Firecracker Firecracker
Firecracker Firecracker
FirecrackerBasal leaves lanceolate to ovate, flat Firecracker
Cauline leaves opposite, triangular, generally not clasping the stem
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Stem tends to be reddish
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Stem tends to be reddish
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Firecracker Firecracker
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Flowers tubular, "petals" not fully opening
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Stigma extends beyond tubular opening
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Developing fruits
Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)
Developing fruits, old stigmas still attached
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Flower structure, external view
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Flower structure, internal view
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Staminode sparsely hairy (bearded)
Firecracker
Anther sacks tubular, opening on the end

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 160613

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