Great Basin Naturalist


A comparison of the floral visitors of two closely related plant species, Penstemon cyananthus and P. eatonii suggests that flower shape and color may affect the number and type of pollinators, and the ability of the plant to set fruit. Penstemon cyananthus, which is most attractive to hymenopteran visitors, has a blue flower, large in diameter, that is positioned as a convenient "landing pad." Although many types of insects visit the flower, the transport of pollen directly to flowers of another individual of the same species is somewhat inefficient, since fruiting success is low (66.7 percent). The tubular red flowers of P. eatonii are narrow and droop downward from the stem. The nectar is accessible to a specific and well-adapted visitor, the hummingbird. This less promiscuous, bird-pollinated species sets fruit more successfully (82.4 percent) than P. cyananthus.