Penstemon superbus is tall, glaucous and many-stemmed from the base. The leaves are connate around the stem and with age the stem and leaves turn a light purple. The basal leaves are larger than the cauline ones and are oblanceolate and petiolate. Penstemon superbus grows in sandy soil at the roadside or just above creekbeds. The flowers are red with nearly orbicular lobes.
Arizona Game and Fish Department 2012, Klienman 2012, Kearney and Peebles 1969, McDougall 1973
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Herbaceous perennials, 30-120 cm tall, stems erect, many, herbage bluish (glacous) to the base, turning light purple with age. Leaves: Opposite, large, upper leaves sessile, broadly ovate to oblong-ovate, cordate clasping or connate around the stem, lower leaves petioled, oblanceolate, margins entire. Flowers: Large and showy, orange-pink or carmine to scarlet, 17-25 mm long, corollas tubular, the lobes nearly orbicular, obscurely bilabiate, the throat only slightly expanded, glandular, ventricose, calyx 5-lobed, stamens 4, in pairs, the fifth a bearded filament, included, anthers flattened, inflorescence narrow, paniculate, in dense fascicles separated by long internodes, often more than half the plant height, glandular or glabrous. Fruits: Septicidal capsule with 2 cells. Seeds small, angeled, numerous. Ecology: Found in limestone, red clay, and sandstone or sandy soils, on roadsides or above streambeds, desert grasslands and riparian zones, from 3,000-6,000 ft (914-1829 m); flowering April-May. Distribution: c and s AZ, s NM; south to n MEX. Notes: Distinctive by being tall, the glaucous foliage, leaves fused around the stem non-bilabiate reddish, glandular flowers with equal corolla lobes, and flattened anthers. When comparing it to P. parryi, it differs by its longer and different colored and shaped corolla (20-25 mm vs. 15-20 mm, carmine to scarlet vs. rose-magenta, narrowly funnelform vs. rather broadly funnelform), and its cauline leaves Penstemon superbus are broadly ovate to oblong-ovate (vs. narrowly lanceolate to lance-oblong). Another showy penstemon is Penstemon pseudospectabalis, which is scarlet to bright pink flowered, and its leaves have serrated margins, while P. superbus does not. Ethnobotany: There is no use recorded for this species, but other species in this genus have uses. Synonyms: None Editor: LCrumbacher 2012, FSCoburn 2015 Etymology: Penstemon comes from the Latin penna, "feather," and seta, "a bristle," thus literally, "feather-bristled," because some species have plumose or feathery bristles, while superbus means superb.