Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 21: 25. 1894. (as Pentstemon)
Herbs. Stems ascending to erect, 35–80 cm, puberulent or retrorsely hairy proximally, retrorsely hairy and sparsely glandular-pubescent distally, not glaucous. Leaves basal and cauline, basal sometimes withering by anthesis, not leathery, glabrous or puberulent along midveins and, sometimes, on proximal parts of blade; basal and proximal cauline 55–170 × 15–60 mm, blade triangular-ovate to cordate or lanceolate, base tapered, margins crenate to sharply serrate, apex obtuse to acute; cauline 4–6 pairs, sessile, 66–105 × 12–48 mm, blade ovate to lanceolate, proximals sometimes lyrate, base truncate to broadly clasping, margins crenate to sharply serrate, apex acute. Thyrses interrupted, narrowly conic, (6–)10–28 cm, axis puberulent and glandular-pubescent, verticillasters 4–7, cymes (3–)5–12-flowered, 2 per node; proximal bracts lanceolate, 56–130 × 23–55 mm, margins sharply serrate; peduncles and pedicels ascending to erect, puberulent and glandular-pubescent. Flowers: calyx lobes ovate to lanceolate, 3.5–5 × 1.2–2.1 mm, glandular-pubescent; corolla lavender to violet or purple, with violet nectar guides, funnelform to ventricose-ampliate, 28–35 mm, glandular-pubescent externally, moderately white-lanate internally abaxially, tube 7–8 mm, throat abruptly inflated, 9–16 mm diam., 2-ridged abaxially; stamens included, pollen sacs opposite, navicular, 1.3–1.5 mm, dehiscing completely, connective splitting, sides glabrous, sutures papillate; staminode 15–18 mm, included, 0.4–0.6 mm diam., tip straight, distal 13–15 mm ± pilose, hairs yellow, to 2 mm; style 17–20 mm. Capsules 7–10 × 4–5 mm, glabrous. 2n = 16.
Phenology: Flowering Apr–Jul.
Habitat: Rocky slopes, bluffs, cliffs.
Elevation: 200–1200 m.
Ala., Ga., N.C., S.C., Tenn.
Penstemon smallii is known from the southern Appalachians. Foliose inflorescence bracts, truncate or cordate cauline leaf bases, and lavender to purple corollas distinguish it from other eastern penstemons.