var. subviscosus (Keck)
Showy penstemon is an erect, glabrous, green or glaucous, herbaceous perennial with several stems growing from the base to a height of 2' to 4'. The leaves are opposite, sessile, coarsely serrate to entire, the lower lanceolate to widely ovate and 4" long, and the upper reduced and connate-perfoliate around the stems. The flowers are showy and in loose panicles arising from the upper leaf axils. The calyx is 5-lobed, green, and 1/8" to 1/4" long, while the corolla is tubular and 1" to 1-1/2" long, purple to lavender with a whitish interior, and with a narrow base that abruptly expands into an ample throat. The corolla is also strongly two-lipped with two lobes above and three below, glandular on the outside and on the throat roof, but glabrous on the throat floor. There are four stamens with anther-sacs that dehisce full-length but are not spread out flat, and one glabrous staminode. This penstemon inhabits the banks of dry washes, gravelly and sandy slopes, and recently disturbed places below 6000' in coastal sage scrub, chaparral and oak woodlands in the Transverse Range, and blooms from April to June. There are two variants listed in the Jepson Manual, which are spectabilis and subviscosus. The former would seem to have leaves with generally entire margins and a glabrous inflorescence, while the latter has leaves with toothed margins and a glandular-hairy inflorescence. This is variant subviscosus, and these pictures were taken in the Santa Monica Mountains. The last picture is a white form from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Penstemon 2) spectabilis 3) subviscosus.