Stems erect, sometimes ascending, 30–100 cm, glabrous or puberulent proximally, usually slightly glaucous. Leaves glabrous or sparsely to densely puberulent, not glaucous; basal and proximal cauline 30–80(–140) × (6–)12–30(–35) mm, blade oblanceolate, base tapered, margins entire, apex obtuse, acute, or acuminate; cauline 3–7(–14) pairs, sessile, 28–142 × 1–8(–15) mm, blade lanceolate to linear, base tapered, apex acuminate, sometimes acute. Thyrses ± secund, sometimes cylindric, 11–69 cm, axis glabrous, verticillasters 6–14(–19), cymes (1 or)2–4-flowered; proximal bracts linear, 15–70(–126) × 1–10 mm; peduncles and pedicels spreading to ascending, glabrous. Flowers: calyx lobes ovate to lanceolate, (3–)4–6(–9) × 1.9–2.8(–3.2) mm, margins entire or erose, glabrous or obscurely glandular-pubescent; corolla red or orangish red to crimson or scarlet, with reddish violet nectar guides, bilaterally symmetric, strongly bilabiate, tubular-funnelform, 26–32(–36) mm, glabrous or sparsely white-lanate or yellow-lanate internally abaxially, tube 5–8 mm, throat 5–6 mm diam., not constricted at orifice, slightly 2-ridged abaxially, abaxial lobes strongly reflexed, adaxial lobes projecting; stamens exserted (but usually concealed beneath projecting adaxial lip), pollen sacs opposite, proximal 1/4–1/3 indehiscent, 1.5–2(–2.2) mm, sides glabrous or sparsely to moderately lanate-villous, hairs white, to 1.5 mm, sutures papillate or denticulate, teeth to 0.1 mm; staminode 15–17 mm, included, tip straight, glabrous; style 22–27 mm. Capsules 10–14 × 6–8 mm.
Ariz., Calif., Colo., N.Mex., Tex., Utah, n Mexico.
Varieties 3 (3 in the flora).
Penstemon barbatus is among the more widespread and conspicuous penstemons in the desert Southwest and Southern Rocky mountains. Putative hybrids reported between P. barbatus and P. comarrhenus, P. glaber, P. strictus, and P. virgatus were summarized by F. S. Crosswhite (1965); putative hybrids involving P. pseudoputus and P. putus also are suspected among some herbarium specimens. Penstemon barbatus is widely cultivated for its showy flowers; cultivars with yellow corollas also exist. Penstemon barbatus was reported for Suffolk County, Massachusetts (D. W. Magee and H. E. Ahles 2007); that report, or that those plants persisted outside of cultivation, has not been confirmed.
Various groups of Apache, Navajo, and Western Keres of Arizona and New Mexico used Penstemon barbatus for drugs, ceremonies, and decorations (D. E. Moerman 1998).
|1||Pollen sac sides sparsely to moderately lanate-villous.||Penstemon barbatus var. trichander|
|1||Pollen sac sides glabrous.||> 2|
|2||Corollas yellow-lanate internally abaxially.||Penstemon barbatus var. barbatus|
|2||Corollas glabrous or sparsely white-lanate internally abaxially.||Penstemon barbatus var. torreyi|