White River Beardtongue / Center For Plant Conservation
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Plant Profile

White River Beardtongue (Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis)

View of the upright flowering stems of this medium-size herbaceous perennial. Photo Credit: Carol Dawson
  • Global Rank: T1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • State: CO, UT
  • Nature Serve ID: 145642
  • Lifeform: Subshrub, Forb/herb
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/25/1988

The White River penstemon is found along the White River that flows westward from the Flat Tops area of Western Colorado until it joins the Green River in Utah. Both the common and scientific name of this species is named after its location (albus, meaning white, and fluvis meaning river). This species is a perennial herb that grows from 15 to 30 cm tall, producing lavender to pale-blue flowers from late May to June (State of Utah 2002). Penstemon albifluvis is very similar to Penstemon scariosus but was described as a separate species in 1982. Later, penstemon specialist Noel Holmgren decided that the former could be treated as a variety of the latter. There is still a need for studies clarifying the taxonomy this species.

Where is White River Beardtongue (Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis) located in the wild?


Mixed desert shrub and pinyon-juniper communities, on sparsely vegetated shale slopes of the Green River Formation. Elev. 5000-7200 ft.( Neese and Smith 1982, Spackman et al. 1997).P. scariosus var. albifluvis is associated with: Artemisia tridentate (Big Basin Sagebrush), Oryzopsis hymenoides (Indian ricegrass), Bromus tectorum (Downy brome), Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Rabbitbrush), Cirsium sp. (Thistle), Sitanion hystrix (squirreltail, Poaceae), Euphorbia sp. (Spurge), Eriogonum sp. (Buckwheat, Polygonaceae), Asteraceae (Sunflower Family). (Atwood 1991, Neese and Smith 1982).


NE Utah (Uintah Co.) and NW Colorado (Rio Blanco Co.) (Spackman et al. 1997).

States & Provinces:

White River Beardtongue can be found in Colorado, Utah

Which CPC Partners conserve White River Beardtongue (Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

Tina Stanley
  • 01/09/2024
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Red Butte Garden has sent at least 6,300 wild-collected seeds of Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis to the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation for long term storage.

Tina Stanley
  • 01/09/2024
  • Seed Collection Living Collection Orthodox Seed Banking

Between 2001 and 2013, Red Butte Garden staff made 12 wild seed collections representing more than 12,300 seeds from 179 individuals of Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis. Over 6,900 of these seeds are held in long term storage at Red Butte Garden. In addition to these seed collections, 7 individuals are held as living specimens at Red Butte Garden.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Narrowly endemic to a small range within Rio Blanco Co., Colorado and adjacent Uintah Co., Utah. Threatened by oil development and grazing.

Michelle DePrenger-Levin
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include petrol development, livestock grazing and hiking trails (Neese and Smith 1982).

Michelle DePrenger-Levin
  • 01/01/2010

Exact number are unknown.

Michelle DePrenger-Levin
  • 01/01/2010

There is no centralized management plan.

Michelle DePrenger-Levin
  • 01/01/2010

Research needs include understanding this species general reproductive biology and ecology, habitat requirements for various life stages, seedling establishment and recruitment and population dynamics.


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Taxon Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis
Authority (England) N. Holmgren
Family Plantaginaceae
CPC Number 7051
ITIS 529514
Duration Perennial
Common Names White River penstemon | White River beardtongue
Associated Scientific Names Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis | Penstemon albifluvis
Distribution NE Utah (Uintah Co.) and NW Colorado (Rio Blanco Co.) (Spackman et al. 1997).
State Rank
State State Rank
Colorado S1
Utah S1
Ecological Relationships


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