North American Prairie Conference


Date of this Version



Published in Prairie Pioneers: Ecology, History and Culture: Proceedings of the Eleventh North American Prairie Conference, August 7-11, 1988, Lincoln, Nebraska (Lincoln, NE 1989).


Blowout penstemon (Penstemon haydenii S. Wats.) appears to be the rarest flowering plant species endemic to Nebraska. It has received a great deal of attention, for endemism is rare in Great Plains states. This attractive species is confined to a small number of active blowout areas in the Nebraska Sandhills, often in relatively small colonies that are many kilometers apart in a relatively vast grassland. Blowout penstemon, thus, is confined to particular habitats which have distinct boundaries in space. It is also successional in nature, which places individual colonies in distinct and, perhaps, limited boundaries in time. It is apparent after eleven years of study that numbers of individuals in a particular colony may vary widely, with the tendency for catastrophic decline. The authors review the morphology of the species, its potential taxonomic relationships, and the fluctuations in known numbers of this species in the recent past.