CPC Plant Profile: Harrington's Beardtongue
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Plant Profile

Harrington's Beardtongue (Penstemon harringtonii)

  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • State: CO
  • Nature Serve ID: 142762
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

Penstemon harringtonii, or Harrington's beardtongue, is a narrowly endemic perennial herb and a member of the Figwort Family. It is 30-70 cm tall; the flowers are large, purple to blue and disposed in loose spikes on the upper half of the stems, blooming in June. This plant is easily recognized by two exserted stamens. The leaves are thick, rounded, elongate, and bluish gray, and arranged opposite each other along the stem. The largest leaves are located in a basal rosette at the base of the plant (Buckner and Bunin 1992; Spackman 1997; Lyon 2001; Von Bargen 1997). William Penland of Colorado College, a Penstemon specialist, first discovered and described this species in 1952. Penstemon harringtonii was named for his colleague, Professor H.D. Harrington of Colorado State University (Panjabi and Anderson 2006). P. harringtonii is not listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act, although it was under review for potential listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to 1996 when the Category 2 and 3 statuses were dissolved. P. harringtonii is designated as a sensitive species by both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (USFWS and BLM).

Participating Institutions
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  • 09/23/2020
  • Demographic Research

The Denver Botanic Gardens conducted a demographic study on P. harringtonii Penland, examining the demographic trends of two populations of P. harringtonii as well as potential factors that may lead to fluctuations in the numbers of this rare endemic.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Colorado endemic with 73 occurrences in an area of high development pressures.

Akiko Okawado
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include: - Residential and agricultural development - Off-road vehicle use - Invasive species - Overgrazing by domestic and wild ungulates - Oil and gas development - Climate change (Panjabi and Anderson 2006)

Akiko Okawado
  • 01/01/2010

Known from 74 occurrences in northwestern Colorado. A total of 40,000-43,000 individuals are estimated within less than 10,000 acres of occupied habitat (CNHP 2006; Panjabi and Anderson 2006).

Akiko Okawado
  • 01/01/2010

The Denver Botanic Gardens conducted a demographic study on P. harringtonii Penland, examining the demographic trends of two populations of P. harringtonii as well as potential factors that may lead to fluctuations in the numbers of this rare endemic.

Akiko Okawado
  • 01/01/2010

No formal plan for this species has been drafted.

Akiko Okawado
  • 01/01/2010

- Species inventory (abundance and distribution) - Habitat monitoring - Understanding all aspects of the species' ecology and biology - Understanding the response of P. harringtonii to disturbance and its rates of reproduction and establishment and the effect of environmental variation. - Restoration methods of habitat or individuals of P. harringtonii.

Akiko Okawado
  • 01/01/2010

Seed collection and storage.


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Taxon Penstemon harringtonii
Authority Penl.
Family Plantaginaceae
CPC Number 3240
ITIS 504214
Common Names Harrington Beardtongue
Associated Scientific Names Penstemon harringtonii
Distribution Colorado endemic, found in Grand, Eagle, Routt, Garfield, Pitkin, and Summit Counties (Spackman 1997).
State Rank
State State Rank
Colorado S3

Open sagebrush communities of North-Central Colorado, frequently under the sagebrush canopy or, less commonly, pinyon-juniper communities. Soils are typically rocky loams and rocky clay roams derived from coarse calcareous parent materials (Spackman 1997). Elev. 6,400-9,400 ft. (Panjabi and Anderson 2006).This species is often associated with Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love, Achnatherum hymenoides (Roemer & J.A. Schultes) Barkworth, Castilleja flava S. Wats., Phlox hoodii Richards., Astragalus cicer (L.), Comandra umbellata (L.) Nutt, and Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle (Buckner 1992 and Denver Botanic Gardens 2007).

Ecological Relationships

Grazing by wild or domestic ungulates and browsing by other herbivores may have a positive effect on populations by maintaining a level of disturbance that reduces cover adn competition for P. harringtonii (Denver Botanic Gardens 2007). Nielson (1998) conducted pollination studies of P. harringtonii in 1993 and 1994 and observed 34 species of insects visiting the flowers of P. harringtonii. Important pollinators include bees of the Megacchilidae family (e.g., Osmia ssp.) and wasps of the Masaridae family (Pseudomasaris vespoides). Nielson (1998) suggests that one or more species in the genus Osmia may be very important pollinators for P. harringtonii and may have a mutualistic relationship with the penstemon.

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Leaf-cutting bees Osmia Confirmed Pollinator Link
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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