A perennial native, mountain pride (Penstemon newberryi) is a wildflower that resembles a small bush growing to about a foot in height. This member for the Figwort Family is found in Oregon, California and Nevada at elevations from about 5,000 to 11,000 feet. Its habitat is dry, rocky areas, talus slopes and granite outcroppings. It can grow from crevices where it seems impossible for life to survive.
The slightly creeping stems arise from a woody base. Most of the opposite, evergreen leaves are basal, although few pairs of smaller leaves occur along the flower stem. The lanceolate to ovate leaves are somewhat thickened and coarsely toothed.
The magenta flowers are borne in a loose cluster at the end of the stem. The reddish flower stem near the flowers and the sepals are covered with small glands. The tubular flowers are double lipped with the upper lip composed of two lobes and the lower of three lobes. The mouth of the flower is filled with short, white hairs. Of the five stamens only four are fertile and the fifth is sterile and does not produce pollen (a staminode).
Other common names for P. newberryi are pride of the mountains, Newberry’s penstemon and beard tongue.
Early Native Americans used mountain pride root preparations to treat toothache. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the brilliant flowers.
Penstemon, the genus name, is from the Greek: “pente” meaning five and “stemon” meaning basket. “Basket” refers to the flower shape while five is the number of petals and other flower parts. John Strong Newberry (1822 – 1892), a physician, botanist and geologist who collected plants in California is honored by the species designation.
This mountain pride specimen was growing in August along the main road through Lassen Volcanic National Park (Shasta County CA) close to the Lost Creek area.
This striking magenta flower is indeed a “pride of the mountains”.