Sand penstemon is a short-lived perennial wildflower of arid regions in the Pacific Northwest. One to several erect stems arise 20-65 cm high from a thick crown. The herbage of the leaves and stems is glabrous and glaucous. The fleshy leaves are entire, with the basal leaves oblanceolate, tapering to a petioled base. The basal leaves range from 4-10 cm long and 7-15 mm wide. The upper stem leaves are 2-7 cm long and 10-35 mm wide, ranging from lanceolate to ovate with acute to acuminate tips, often sessile and clasping (See photos.)
The inflorescence consists of 3-18 congested verticillasters, the clusters of flowers subtended by bracts which are usually wider than long and with hear-shaped bases which overlap. The calyx is 4.5-9 mm long during flowering, elongating in fruit. The individual sepals are narrowly lanceolate in shape. The blue to lavender or pink corolla ranges from 11-20 mm long with the tube narrow at the base tapering gradually to a wide throat. The corolla lobes flare broadly. The anthers are glabrous and black outside, the sacs splitting completely to become opposite and boat-shaped. The staminode is glabrous or often with a short, yellow beard at the tips.
Variety acuminatus: Corolla 15- 20 mm long. Calyx 5-11 mm long. Found in central Washington and northern Oregon (near the Columbia River). Photos of Penstemon acuminatus var. acuminatus.
Variety latebracteatus: Corolla 10-15 mm long. Calyx 4.5-6.5 mm long. Found from southeastern Oregon to southwestern Idaho and south into Nevada.
Sand penstemon lives on open, frequently sandy places, often on sand dunes.
Sand penstemon's range is from Grant County, WA in the north to Klickitat and Walla Walla counties (WA), across the Columbia River into northern and eastern (Harney County) Oregon, eastward along the Snake River plains of Idaho (Gooding and Owyhee counties).