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  • Author or Editor: Ananta Raj Devkota x
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Penstemon, with more than 250 species native to North America, holds significant aesthetic and ecological value in Utah, supporting diverse pollinators. Despite their significance, the survival of penstemon is threatened by challenges such as habitat loss, climate change, and Utah’s naturally high soil salinity. To address these challenges and understand their adaptability, this study evaluated the salt tolerance of two penstemon species [Penstemon davidsonii (Davidson’s penstemon) and Penstemon heterophyllus (foothill penstemon)] under controlled greenhouse conditions. The aim was to develop baseline information for nursery production and landscape use that utilize reclaimed water for irrigation. Plants were irrigated weekly with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.0 dS·m−1 as control or a saline solution at an EC of 2.5, 5.0, 7.5, or 10.0 dS·m−1 for 8 weeks. Half of the plants were harvested after four irrigation events, and the remaining plants were harvested after eight irrigation events. At harvest, visual rating (0 = dead and 5 = excellent without foliage salt damage), plant width, number of shoots, leaf area, shoot dry weight, leaf greenness [Soil Plant Analysis Development (SPAD)], stomatal conductance, and canopy temperature were collected to assess the impact of salinity stress. In both species, salt damage was dependent on the salinity levels and length of exposure. After four irrigation events, both species exhibited foliage damage that increased in severity with rising EC. The most severe damage was observed in plants receiving saline solution at an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1. After eight irrigation events, P. davidsonii exposed to a saline solution with an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1 received a visual rating of 0, whereas P. heterophyllus had a visual rating of 0.4. Both species exhibited salinity-induced effects, with variations observed in the specific parameters and the degree of response. Penstemon davidsonii exhibited significant salinity stress, as indicated by reduced leaf area, shoot dry weight, SPAD reading, and stomatal conductance with increasing EC of the saline solution. In addition, in both species, at both harvests, canopy temperatures increased either linearly or quadratically by 8% to 36% as the EC levels of the saline solution increased. These results indicate that P. davidsonii was more sensitive to salinity stress than P. heterophyllus.

Open Access