Blowout Penstemon (Penstemon haydenii)

Principal biologist(s)

Grace Ray, Carter Kruse

Project Locations

Spikebox Ranch, NE

Conservation Problem

Rapid, ecoregional decline of Sandhills open blowout habitat resulted in the near extinction of this species and continues to be a threat as suitable habitat continues to decline.

Conservation Status

– Listed as an endangered species in Nebraska by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in 1986

-Listed the plant under the Endangered Species Act in 1987 The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Project Goals & Objectives

Our overall goal is to work with state and federal partners to reintroduce blowout penstemon to the Spikebox Ranch to establish a viable population that contributes to the recovery and potential downlisting/delisting of the species.

-utilitze focused bison grazing on a Sandhills prairie pasture of the Spikebox Ranch to create >800 acres of ideal habitat (i.e. sand dune blowout and migration) for penstemon reintroduction

-once the desired habitat is achieved, disperse approximately 5,000 seedlings and >10 pounds of seed throughout the pasture

Project Background

Since the blowout penstemon was listed, the number of acres of suitable blowout habitat has continued to decline due to fire suppression and changes in grazing management practices (see Box 15.1). Numerous penstemon reintroduction projects have taken place across the Sandhills with minimal success, as the acreages dedicated to projects are rarely large enough to support sustainable populations for the long term. Although populations associated with public lands projects are generally more successful, there remains an inherent lack of suitable penstemon habitat large enough to sustain fluctuating populations. Turner Ranches in the Sandhills have a unique ability to utilize bison grazing to promote penstemon habitat on a scale large enough to support yearly population fluctuations as well as provide the acreage necessary for promoting genetic variation and sustainable reproduction. Promotion of penstemon habitat essentially requires “overgrazing” an area to promote sand dune blowout and migration. The Spikebox Ranch has worked with TBD to implement this effort. No other private landowner in the Sandhills has been willing to experiment with decreasing range condition in order to benefit penstemon.