As I bounced along the overgrown trail that parallels the creek, I was floored by two largely-flowered plants growing in the sand prairie where nothing else was flowering yet.
I know I had seen these flowering plants before, but my memory for plant names being what it is (or isn't, I pretty much have to re-learn them every season) I had to take some photos so I could look them up when I got back. Not that I wouldn't have taken some photos anyway, they were stunning plants - somewhat on the order of our Minnesota state flower - the "Showy Lady's Slipper" or "Pink & White Lady’s Slipper" or "Queen’s Lady Slipper" or simply the Cypripedium reginae, depending on who you talk to, but not all closed up like a slipper.
I checked it out when I got home and am pretty sure it was a Penstemon grandiflorus, or "Large-Flowered Penstemon" or even flowerier, "Large-flowered Beardtongue," or even gothier, "Large-flower Beardtounge" if you really want to go Old Worldy on it.
However you spell it or pronounce it, it is a member of the Snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) (say that three times fast) family. Also known as the Figwort family, which is the same but sounds so much more Harry Potter-like. Conversely, "Lady Slippers" are in the orchid familiadae, and are not available in your favorite department store's footware section. They may be found under "Home & Garden" if you are lucky however.
Be that as it may, it is a beautiful flower. The "bearded-tongue" thing comes from one of it's five stamens or "tongues" being sterile and having a tufted, beard-like appearance. Appropriate for a dragon, I'd say. In addition there are four fertile stamens, hence the generic name Penstemon, from the Greek paene, meaning "almost", and stamon, meaning "thread" or both together, "almost a stamen." The specific name grandiflorus means "large-flowered" in botanical Latin.
I could have told you that.
Another interesting and unanswered connection involved here brings us back to July 2nd, 2008, where I posted a pic of an unopened mysterious pink eggplant-shaped flower I could not identify (go figure) and my dear sister Bethy later suggested it was a Prairie Beard-Tongue, (Penstemon eriantherus) according to her "Wildflowers of America" book, plate 332.
I think she's on to something there. The penstemon may be mightier than the swordstemon that hath slain the snapdragonstemon.
Enough of this, I have to go pull swords out of rocks and things now. Or at least mow the lawn.