I love xeric plants, grey plants, plants with winter rosettes, and penstemons...it's like this plant was designed for me. Native to dryish sites in the tallgrass prairie, from Texas to Montana east to Ohio, though it doesn't occur with any frequency east of the Mississippi River. I know this only from research; the literature, and Scott, also tell me that it's a short-lived perennial almost to the point of being a biennial. I look at all those flowers and have to think that it must reseed pretty dependably.
Scott, Kevin, and GrayC collected seeds in the spring of 2010 from 2009 flowers. They found it in Lawrence, South Dakota on a "Previously logged ponderosa pine woodland, open meadow, slope with southern exposure."This plant is growing in the Introductory Gardens growing area. Brad amended the soil to add drainage. Poor dry soil is what the doctor ordered for this one. I'm going to have to give it a shot. I've got the poor dry soil in the sun for it. I notice Prairie Nursery has it available.
Scott Aker, our Gardens Unit Leader, who was part of this collecting trip, grew up botanizing in the north part of the North American prairie. He speaks about this plant on his blog.