The WyoBio Minute

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Episode 9: The Blowout Penstemon

Original Air Date: 03/08/18 05:54:pm

Image: USFWS Mountain-Prairie

One of Wyoming’s most showy wildflowers was lost for 140 years. A striking plant, blowout penstemon has large, scented, pink flowers, and turquoise green leaves. Its most unusual feature is its proclivity for sand—it grows only in active sand dunes, hence the name “blowout.” It was collected in Wyoming in 1857 by the geologist Ferdinand Hayden, during an expedition for the US government. Though he labeled the plant as being found in Wyoming, the location was vague. By the early 20th century, blowout penstemon was known only from the sandhills of Nebraska, where it was quite common. But it soon became uncommon, and was even thought to be extinct for a while. Because it was so rare, it was listed as an Endangered species in 1987. Then, in 1990, blowout penstemon was rediscovered in a remote corner of the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming. There, 1000s of blowout penstemon plants occupy several active dunes in rugged country between the Platte River and the mountains. With your WyoBio Minute I a Brian Barber