CPC Plant Profile: Parachute Penstemon
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Plant Profile

Parachute Penstemon (Penstemon debilis)

Closeup image of Penstemon debilis. Release on file from Laura Smith Photo Credit: Thomas A. Grant III
Description
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • State: CO
  • Nature Serve ID: 149728
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

Penstemon debilis OKane and J.L. Anderson, the Parachute beardtongue, is a perennial forb of the Scrophulariaceae family. This species lacks aerial stems, has succulent, glabrous, and glacous leaves, and white to pale lavender flowers that bloom from mid June to mid July.

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Updates
  • 09/23/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Amy McMullen at Utah State University has done research on reproductive biology and edaphic endemism of Penstemon debilis.

  • 09/23/2020
  • Genetic Research

Wolfe et al. (2014) evaluated the genetic structure of Penstemon debilis populations and found that while there is no evidence of inbreeding depression in P. debilis populations, the genetic diversity within populations was low compared to closely related species and species with similar reproductive modes.

Katie Heineman
  • 10/19/2017

There are six remaining populations of the parachute penstemon, however two are not considered viable. The entire extent of the species range is a 2 mi by 17 mi area in Garfield, County Colorado (USFWS 2013).

Katie Heineman
  • 10/19/2017

Wolfe et al. (2014) evaluated the genetic structure of Penstemon debilis populations and found that while there is no evidence of inbreeding depression in P. debilis populations, the genetic diversity within populations was low compared to closely related species and species with similar reproductive modes. 

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Penstemon debilis is endemic to the Piceance Basin in Garfield County, Colorado. It is restricted to the Mahogany Zone of the Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation. Despite fairly extensive surveys of potential habitat, there are only four viable occurrences. The species faces a high degree of threat from gas and oil shale development.

Laura Smith
  • 01/01/2010

Habitat destruction from natural gas production and possible oil shale development is a serious threat for this species.

Laura Smith
  • 01/01/2010

In 1998 the population was estimated at 6750 individuals, but in 2006 that number had dropped to 450-750 individuals.

Laura Smith
  • 01/01/2010

Amy McMullen at Utah State University has done research on reproductive biology and edaphic endemism of Penstemon debilis.

Laura Smith
  • 01/01/2010

The largest documented occurrence of Penstemon debilis is on land owned by Occidental Oil Shale, Inc. They have entered into an agreement with the Colorado Natural Areas Program to protect this species on Mt. Callahan, the site of the largest known occurrence of Penstemon debilis.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Penstemon debilis
Authority O'Kane & J.L. Anderson
Family Plantaginaceae
CPC Number 9172
ITIS 504208
USDA PEDE22
Common Names Parachute Creek Penstemon | Parachute Penstemon | parachute beardtongue
Associated Scientific Names Penstemon debilis
Distribution Penstemon debilis is endemic to Gardield County, Colorado. It is restricted to the Mahogany Zone of the Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation in the Piceance Basin. There are five known populations.
State Rank
State State Rank
Colorado S1
Habitat

Penstemon debilis is found on sparsely vegetated, south facing, steep, and white shale talus slopes of the Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation. Soils are a mixture of thin shale fragments and clay. Elevation range is 2400-2800 m. This habitat is extremely isolated.

Ecological Relationships

Amy McMullen, working at Utah State University, found that Penstemon debilis is bee pollinated, primarily by Osmia brevis (NatureServe 2008). Penstemon debilis is often found with Agropyron spicatum, Cercocarpus montanus, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, Cymopterus hendersonii, Eriogonum lonchophyllum, Galium coloradoense, Holodiscus dumosus, Machaeranthera grindeliodes, Monardella ordoratissima, Astragalus lutosus, Festuca dasyclada, Mentzelia argillosa, Thalictrum heliophilum, Penstemon caespitosus, and Penstemon mensarum.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Native bee Link
Leaf-cutting bees Osmia brevis Confirmed Pollinator Link
Other
Masaridae Confirmed Pollinator Link
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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