Scientific Name: Penstemon grahamii
Zone: Native to Uinta Basin up to 6,000'
Penstemon grahamii, commonly known as Graham's Penstemon, is arguably the most beautiful of our rare Penstemons in Utah. Graham's Penstemon was first collected by Edward Graham along the Green River in 1933. This small-statured perennial with thick, leathery leaves produces considerably large, tubular lavender flowers for its size. There is quite a range in flower color from pale to deep lavender, and in pleasing contrast to its flowers, the sterile staminode, a characteristic feature of this genera, is densely covered with bright orange hairs. The future of this species remains uncertain however, as it is restricted to oil shale outcrops within the Uintah Basin.
Commercial oil shale recovery and gas development is now becoming a reality within most of this species' range. The total population is estimated to range between 5500 and 7000 individuals, primarily within lands currently leased for oil and gas development. Graham's Penstemon has been a candidate for federal listing as endangered or threatened since 1975 and has yet to be listed. Management of this species is proving to be difficult without full federal protection and basic biological information.
This past summer, Red Butte Garden initiated a study on this species and another candidate species, the White River Penstemon, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management. The goals of the study are to collect life history data and pollinator information for both Penstemons. Pollinator information is important because scattered and dwindling populations can affect pollinator movements and preferences. There is also a need to identify important pollinators and make decisions for their needs. Red Butte Garden's conservation program is working with researchers Vincent Tepedino and Sylvia Torti on this project.