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A few weeks ago, the Sam Noble Museum welcomed back annual visitors to the museum grounds. A batch of wild Penstemon oklahomensis, an endemic species of flower occurring exclusively in Oklahoma, began to flourish in a vast field located just behind the museum.
Although the P. oklahomensis is not a federally recognized endangered species, it is state rare. The plant consists of a tall stalk that branches into several white, tubular flowers, with the pollen nestled cozily inside. The blossoms at the end of this knee-high plant typically bend downwards, toward the ground.
“The population in the field south of the Sam Noble Museum is healthy and robust,” said Dr. Wayne Elisens, a professor and curator of the Robert Bebb Herbarium at the University of Oklahoma. “Because the species flowers in April into May and fruits into June, one strategy to promote its persistence is to mow after fruit set, probably by mid-June at the earliest.”
In an effort to preserve the flowers, the Sam Noble Museum has requested to refrain from mowing until the plant has finished blooming and dropping seeds for next year. Dr. Bruce Hoagland, a plant ecologist and coordinator of the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory, said that he supports the decision to let the field grow naturally.
In honor of the May 19 and 20 tornados, the Sam Noble Museum will be offering complimentary admission to all throughout the month June. Since Dr. Hoagland and Dr. Elisens predict the flowers will be with us until mid-June, why not stop in and say “hello” to our yearly guests?