Another set of wonderful photos taken by Randal Mindell and description written by Brent Hine, Curator, E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden.
How's this for flower power? Here's a group of three plants inside the Intermountain Habitat at the UBC Botanical Garden. The habitat was constructed to provide a suitable environment for a representative display of western North American dryland plants.
Penstemon davidsonii is a shrubby evergreen perennial native to southern BC. Taxonomists place it in subgenus Dasanthera, a group that generally puts up with the high rainfall of the Pacific Northwest. I have placed its three varieties (davidsonii, menziesii and this one) in this garden for that reason too, but more because all are easy to grow and present a good flower show. Variety praeteritus (from Latin praeterire, to overlook, pass by) however, takes flowering to a higher level. No fertilizer was used on these plants! Each flower is about twice the size of those of the species. Their blooms overwhelm the tiny leaves beneath – a classic alpine plant trait that ensures lots of attention from pollinators. Perhaps this taxon was overlooked because it is endemic only to remote southeastern Oregon. Simply called "The Steens" by those who know the area, Steens Mountain contains diverse populations of penstemons protected by the relative distance of the area from large population centres.
For a good introduction to what makes Steens Mountain such a special place for penstemons, read the introduction to the Flora of Steens Mountain by Donald H. Mansfield, from the Oregon State Universty Press Website.
Reference: Penstemons. Robert Nold, 1992, Timber Press, Portland OR.