My apologies for being so late with today’s entry — I had a grant application deadline to meet.
One bit of housekeeping before the write-up. If you are a student studying botany (or a related field) at UBC, please consider the Botany Photo of the Day Assistant work study position for this upcoming school year! Or, if you know a UBC student studying something related, please let him or her know about the posting. Thanks!
Not all hymenopteran pollinators are bees, though they get most of the glory. Hornets can also play a role in pollination, as in the case of this critter pollinating the shrubby penstemon. Ingrid Hoff, the garden’s horticultural manager, identified this hornet a few years ago, but I can’t recall if she said it was a blackjacket or a baldfaced hornet. I suspect it’s a male of the latter, despite the fact that it has more white markings than usual. Since I’ve been stung more times by hornets than bees, I recall not wanting to get any closer for the photograph with my point-and-shoot camera (this was in June 4 years ago). I do remember being fascinated by how the segments of the abdomen seemed to pulsate.
Penstemon fruticosus is a widespread subshrub native to central western North America. It is commonly found in dry and warm well-draining sites from low to subalpine elevations. A particularly floriferous selection was introduced to the nursery trade by UBC Botanical Garden in the 1980s / 1990s called Penstemon fruticosus ‘Purple Haze’, a clump of which can still be found in some ornamental plantings near the BC temperate coastal garden.
According to Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia, Penstemon fruticosus was used by First Nations peoples for dye (for baskets), flavouring (for pit-cooked vegetables) and a set of medicines.