Pursuit of a Penstemon

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A fellow wildflower enthusiast told me that one of the penstemons I missed finding for Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest grows at Peshastin Pinnacles State Park near Cashmere in the Wenatchee River valley.  Peshastin is a popular rock climbing area and I helped to build the trails there back when it first became a park in the early 1990s. So yesterday I stopped by on a meandering route from Bellingham to Pendleton, Oregon.

Chelan Penstemon

The penstemon on this quest is Chelan Penstemon, Penstemon pruinosus. I found what I thought was it not very far up the trail from the gate to the climbing area and stopped and made many photos. But then I found a different penstemon blooming farther along and in a more rocky habitat. I spent time with the key in Hitchcock on both of them and thought the first one I shot was what I was looking for. But then I had doubts.

This morning I drove up river from Wenatchee a short distance and stopped for purple flowers on the rocky slope beside the road. I thought when driving by that they were purple sage, Salvia dorrii, but when I got closer I saw they were penstemons. I pulled the key out again and this time decided I really had found Penstemon pruinosus. That’s the plant in the photo above. I find penstemons hard to key out — the key starts with the way the pollen sacs split open and includes the seeds. I’ve spent a lot of time keying penstemons and still not felt completely confident of the result. Lupines and paintbrushes are also difficult, and let’s not even get started on Astragalus.

In Leavenworth I stopped at the ski hill, which is a wonderful place for flowers in the spring. I found a patch of Trillium petiolatum, roundleaf trillium, along a trail and made some fresh images.  Arrowleaf balsamroot and lupines were blooming in the ponderosa forest, and I found a nice patch of star Solomon’s seal with more blossoms that I typically see.

Today was productive with a visit to Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, then a stop along the Goldendale-Lyle highway to photograph Lomatium suksdorfii, which I’d misidentified a few years back. Finally, a stop by Roland Lake in the Columbia Gorge for some fresh images of the endemic Barrett’s penstemon which blooms on the basalt cliffs beside the old highway.  It’s going to take a while back in the office to get everything edited and captioned.

Last night I slept in the back of my truck up a forest service road near Leavenworth. I had peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for lunch and dinner today, but treated myself to a motel room in The Dalles tonight so I could get clean and charge batteries before visiting with a garden club group in Pendleton on Monday.

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