Lauritzen Gardens is working with a team of federal and state botanists to develop a plan for a systematic, range-wide seed banking effort for Penstemon haydenii. The effort will involve collecting seed samples from as many extant populations as is possible and prudent.
Narrowly endemic mainly to the Nebraska Sandhills Prairie, but also located in Wyoming where it is restricted to a unique habitat known as a 'blowout'. The species was more common in the sandhills before settlement, but control of fire and range management practices (especially dune stabilization) has reduced the amount of available habitat (blowouts). The resultant isolation of existing blowouts and populations has become a barrier to the dispersal of seeds to new blowouts. Even though populations of this species are separated from one another so that gene exchange is rare, genetic studies have revealed that populations do maintain a fine level of genetic variation, and it is believed that the high level of genetic variation exists because populations are occasionally refreshed by seeds with unique alleles from the seed bank (germination conditions favorable every 7 to 8 years). While populations are separated and bottlenecks have certainly occurred, this species which reproduces vegetatively most frequently, does have some ability to rebound in the face of environmental change since the seed bank harbors genetic potential. Further, it is known that this penstemon is self-incompatible and pollination from genetically different plants is required for seeds to be viable. Pollination studies have shown that pollinators were not in short supply at at least one of the study sites, but is it recommended that pollinators be encouraged if other sites are lacking them.
The most challenging aspect of evaluating the Blowout penstemon's conservation status is the high number of occurrences that are known; as of 2010 there are some 80 natural populations. Even though this number is quite high, precipitous population declines in the recent past are quite alarming. Finally, it should be noted that in cases where species occur in habitats that are 'habitat islands', genetically isolated from one another, defining each instance of the species as an occurrence is not an uncommon practice, but gives an inflated number of occurrences.
Threatened in Nebraska by habitat loss, natural succession, fire suppression, and erosion-reducing grazing practices that encourage the growth of grass cover. In Wyoming, threats include habitat loss from reclamation of sand dune areas, sand mining and of
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