The name "Penstemon" means "five stamens".
The name "Beardtongue" refers to the fact that one of the stamens is
different from the rest. It is called a "staminode" and is covered with fine hairs,
appearing to have a beard. This stamen does not develop any pollen itself, but probably
helps to attract insects into the center of the flower where pollen from the
other stamens can cover their bodies and be carried to the next flower.
There are several species of Penstemons that occur in Utah. Here are some
that I have seen along the roadsides.
Utah Penstemon (Penstemon utahensis)
This plant occurs in the eastern and southern counties of Utah -- on the mesas and
in the canyons of the Colorado Plateau area. The brilliant red color of the blossoms
makes the plant stand out against the dry rocky soil where it grows.