CPC Plant Profile: Barrett's Beardtongue
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Plant Profile

Barrett's Beardtongue (Penstemon barrettiae)

This Penstemon barrettiae shrub is in full bloom, lending a splash of color to a rocky hillside. Photo Credit: Erna Rose
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • State: OR, WA
  • Nature Serve ID: 161134
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/14/1986

Penstemon barrettiae may be easy to spot when in full bloom, but it is anything but easy to study. This beautiful penstemon with thick, leathery bluish- to gray- green leaves and long, tubular rose-purple flowers can easily be seen clinging to the cliffs that it calls home. Because of its preference for steep cliffs and rocky outcrops, this is not an easy plant to survey or study. While access to plants along road-cuts may be easy, one would have to be an expert rock climber to reach most. This would make a beautiful introduction to the garden. It is hardy, drought tolerant, and easy to propagate. But be sure to get seed or plants from a reputable source. Never collect from the wild or obtain plants from nurseries that collect rare plants from the wild.

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Updates
  • 09/23/2020
  • Reintroduction

Cuttings and seeds were taken from plants that were to be destroyed by blasting for construction of a lock at Bonneville Dam. Since P. barrettiae is not a listed species, the Army Corps of Engineers was under no obligation to protect the plants. Despite this, the Corps was enthusiastic about saving the plants. Seeds and cuttings were collected rather dramatically from the high cliffs using an aerial lift. Rooted cuttings were placed in permanent beds at Bonneville Dam and after construction, plants were re-planted on the newly exposed rock cliffs (Kierstead 1986).

  • 09/23/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Seeds from two sites in Oregon and two sites in Washington are stored at The Berry Botanic Garden.

  • 09/23/2020
  • Seed Collection

Cuttings and seeds were taken from plants that were to be destroyed by blasting for construction of a lock at Bonneville Dam. Since P. barrettiae is not a listed species, the Army Corps of Engineers was under no obligation to protect the plants. Despite this, the Corps was enthusiastic about saving the plants. Seeds and cuttings were collected rather dramatically from the high cliffs using an aerial lift. Rooted cuttings were placed in permanent beds at Bonneville Dam and after construction, plants were re-planted on the newly exposed rock cliffs (Kierstead 1986). Seeds from two sites in Oregon and two sites in Washington are stored at The Berry Botanic Garden.

  • 09/23/2020
  • Propagation Research

Germination studies conducted at the Berry Botanic Garden were highly variable. In several trials, seeds were subjected to either eight weeks of cold stratification or no cold stratification and then subjected to either constant 68F (20C) or alternating 50/68F (10/20C) temperatures. Depending on the treatment, between 0-60% of the seeds germinated. However, results were inconsistent between trials, perhaps due to differences in seed viability (BBG Files).

  • 09/23/2020
  • Genetic Research

Genetic studies utilizing isosymes (enzyme analysis) to determine the genetic diversity within and between populations of P. barrettiae. Penstemon barrettiae was found to have high genetic variation with levels of variation greater than that for most restricted endemic plant species. Morphological comparisons between populations were conducted by taking data on leaf length, width, and serrations; inflorescence number and length; and plant diameter and height. All sampled traits differed significantly among populations. This may be due to moisture gradients and substrate differences (Burkhart 1996).

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A Washington and Oregon endemic. Known from a narrow strip - about 8 km long - on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge and in the canyon of the Klickitat River, a Columbia tributary. An additional population, 72 km to the west, was discovered in 1985, just before its habitat was destroyed during construction of a navigation lock. Cuttings from this population were salvaged and transplanted to two nearby sites. Threats to existing populations of Penstemon barrettiae include herbicides used to clear nearby highway and railroad embankments, rock garden plant collectors, road construction, quarrying, timber harvest, and changes in hydrology that may reduce the availability of water. There are nine sites that are historic or possibly extirpated that should be surveyed to confirm the presence/absence of the species.

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Horticultural exploitation (Meinke 1982). Road construction, construction activities (Meinke 1982). Herbicide spraying along railroads and highways (Grettenberger 1987). Localized distribution (Grettenberger 1987). Habitat loss due to quarrying o

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

8 sites are known in Oregon with unknown numbers of individuals. Most occur near Hood River, but one population was found approximately 45 miles to the west (a surprising range extension) at Bonneville Dam. (Wasco Co., Hood River Co., 1 in Multnomah Co.) (Oregon Natural Heritage Database). In Washington, there are about 17 presumed extant occurrences (16 in Klickitat Co, 1 in Skamania Co.). Not all populations have been surveyed. As of 1995 (of those with known pop size estimates) 2 populations had fewer than 10 individuals, 3 had between 10 and 20, 3 had between 100 and 200, 3 had between 200 and 450, 1 had approximately 650 and 1 had approximately 2,700 (WNHP 2000).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Genetic studies utilizing isosymes (enzyme analysis) to determine the genetic diversity within and between populations of P. barrettiae. Penstemon barrettiae was found to have high genetic variation with levels of variation greater than that for most restricted endemic plant species. Morphological comparisons between populations were conducted by taking data on leaf length, width, and serrations; inflorescence number and length; and plant diameter and height. All sampled traits differed significantly among populations. This may be due to moisture gradients and substrate differences (Burkhart 1996). Germination studies conducted at the Berry Botanic Garden were highly variable. In several trials, seeds were subjected to either eight weeks of cold stratification or no cold stratification and then subjected to either constant 68F (20C) or alternating 50/68F (10/20C) temperatures. Depending on the treatment, between 0-60% of the seeds germinated. However, results were inconsistent between trials, perhaps due to differences in seed viability (BBG Files).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Cuttings and seeds were taken from plants that were to be destroyed by blasting for construction of a lock at Bonneville Dam. Since P. barrettiae is not a listed species, the Army Corps of Engineers was under no obligation to protect the plants. Despite this, the Corps was enthusiastic about saving the plants. Seeds and cuttings were collected rather dramatically from the high cliffs using an aerial lift. Rooted cuttings were placed in permanent beds at Bonneville Dam and after construction, plants were re-planted on the newly exposed rock cliffs (Kierstead 1986). Seeds from two sites in Oregon and two sites in Washington are stored at The Berry Botanic Garden.

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Additional surveys to search for additional populations and to assess the range of known populations (WNHP 1999).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Collect and store seed from across the species range. Determine optimum germination conditions. Study innate seed viability and long-term viability after prolonged storage. Determine propagation and reintroduction protocols.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Penstemon barrettiae
Authority Gray
Family Plantaginaceae
CPC Number 3212
ITIS 33830
USDA PEBA7
Common Names Barrett's beardtongue | Barrett's penstemon
Associated Scientific Names Penstemon barrettiae
Distribution WA: Columbia Basin, East Cascades, West Cascades (in Klickitat and Skamania Counties)OR: West Cascades & Crest, East Cascades (Columbia River Basin) (in Hood River, Wasco and Multnomah Counties)
State Rank
State State Rank
Oregon S2
Washington S2
Habitat

Crevices along basalt cliff faces, ledges of rock outcrops, open talus and along roadsides. Soils are poorly developed; mostly rock and wind blown organic matter, and are well drained. Associated species include Lomatium suksdorfii, Penstemon richardsonii, and Eriogonum spp. Elevations range from approximately 100 to 1970 ft (30 to 600 m).

Ecological Relationships

Individual Penstemon barrettiae plants send out roots along their branches, and when the branches touch the ground, the roots take hold. These rooted branches may then break away from the parent plant, thereby creating a clone. This natural attribute of the plant can be used to the advantage of researchers, as plants can be readily reproduced from cuttings (Kierstead, Reestablishment).The establishment of Penstemon barrettiae plants on rocky cliff ledges and talus may create microhabitats suitable for other plants to establish (WNHP 1999).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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