Parachute beardtongue was discovered in 1986, and was first described by O’Kane and Anderson in 1987. Plants produce shoots that run along underground, forming what appear as new plants at short distances away. Individual Parachute beardtongue plants are able to survive on the steep, unstable, shale slopes by responding with stem elongation as leaves are buried by the shifting talus. Buried stems progressively elongate down slope from the initial point of rooting to a surface sufficiently stable to allow the development of a tuft of leaves and flowers. Parachute beardtongue plants produce a small number of seeds that are dispersed by gravity. The species is threatened primarily by oil and gas development and small population sizes.
Parachute beardtongue plants require cross pollination, and have many different pollinators that vary between occurrences. None of the pollinators are specialists to Parachute beardtongue, nor are any of them rare.
Parachute beardtongue seems to be adapted to natural physical disturbance. Many of the characteristics that are most similar among sites promote continual shifting of the substrate: steep slopes, unstable surface layers of broken shale rubble and no surface soil. The plants grow on steep, oil shale outcrop slopes of white shale talus at 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 meters) in elevation on the southern escarpment of the Roan Plateau above the Colorado River and the town of Parachute, Colorado. The Roan Plateau falls into the geologic structural basin known as the Piceance Basin. Average annual precipitation at Parachute, Colorado, is 12.75 inches (32.4 centimeters), which is considered a high desert climate. Parachute beardtongue is found only on the Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation. Parachute beardtongue is often found growing with other species endemic to the Green River formation, including Roan Cliffs blazingstar (Mentzelia rhizomata), dragon milkvetch (Astragalus lutosus), Utah fescue (Festuca dasyclada) and sun-loving meadowrue (Thalictrum heliophilum), as well as several non-endemics.
Arid land with usually sparse vegetation.
Parachute beardtongue is a mat-forming perennial herb with thick, succulent, bluish leaves, each about 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) long and 0.4 inch (1 centimeter) wide.
The funnel-shaped flowers are white to pale lavender, and bloom during June and July.
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