Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beardtongue)

Plant Info
Also known as: Eastern Smooth Beardtongue
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to moist; fields, open woods, roadsides
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:2 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Three to 6 opposite pairs of flower clusters on long, erect to ascending stalks arising from leaf axils in the upper plant, with 3 to 12+ short-stalked flowers in each cluster. Flowers are white to pale pink or lavender, about 1 inch (2 to 3 cm) long, tubular, the lower lip with 3 downward pointing lobes of similar size and shape, the upper lip erect and lobed in 2 parts somewhat smaller than the lower lobes. Inside the tube are several pinkish or purplish lines, 4 black-tipped stamens hugging the upper part of the tube, a white style, and a sterile stamen with sparse yellow hairs at the tip end.

[photo of calyx and glandular hairs] The floral tube is abruptly inflated from the lower half. The calyx surrounding the flower is green to maroon and has 5 short, spreading, narrowly triangular lobes. Cluster stalks are 1 to 3 inches long and green to maroon. The flower, calyx and flower stalks are all densely covered in short, sticky, glandular hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of basal leaves] Leaves are basal and opposite along the stem. Basal and lowest stem leaves are somewhat variable, stalked, mostly toothless, mostly hairless, narrowly spatula shaped to oblong to narrowly egg-shaped, 1 to 7+ inches (3 to 18+ cm) long, up to 1½ inches wide, pointed to rounded at the tip, and often somewhat wavy around the edges.

[photo of stem leaves] Stem leaves are more lance to egg-shaped to nearly triangular, pointed at the tip, thin, toothless or minutely toothed around the edges, stalkless, somewhat clasping, tend to be widely spaced with opposite pairs at right angles to the pair above and below, and are reduced to bracts in the flower clusters. Stems are erect, single or multiple from the base, green to purple, hairless except in the flower clusters.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a capsule up to about ½ inch (8 to 14 mm) long containing numerous seeds.

[photo of seeds Seeds are angular, brown, .8 to 1.3 mm long.


Foxglove Beardtongue is more common to our south and east where it's found in meadows, prairies, woodland edges, savannas and along railroads. In Minnesota, the largest concentrations have been from wet ditches and upland meadows in Pine County. It is widely available in the nursery trade and is sometimes found in restoration plantings. The flowers are similar to White Penstemon (Penstemon albidis) but the latter has flower clusters on much shorter and is generally a smaller plant, reaching heights of only 6 to 20 inches. Also similar is Pale Beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus), which has smaller flowers and hairy leaves and stems where Foxglove Beardtongue is hairless except for the flowers.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston County and in his gardens.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Patrick - Lake Elmo, Washington County
on: 2016-06-15 07:37:53

There are 1000s of these plants in my 2 acre tall grass restoration. It is self propagating and prolific.

Posted by: Aaron - Redwood County
on: 2017-06-19 23:29:36

We had a few of these plants during a vegetation survey last week in a wetland that BWSR owns. I'm guessing it was in the seed mix, although it wasn't listed from the last seeding in 2009.

Posted by: Gabe - Prairie Island, Goodhue County
on: 2018-06-04 13:51:24

Just discovered this on a 3 yr old seeded island site in the Mississippi River. I would agree, as dense as it is, it was likely in the seed mix. Don't see it anywhere else in the floodplain. Prolific.

Posted by: Lara - Cottage Grove, SE Washington County
on: 2019-06-22 11:56:45

SE Washington County. There are a bunch of these in a restoration around a stormwater pond in Cottage Grove. It’s on city property on a sunny south facing slope.

Posted by: Nancy - Mille Lacs County
on: 2019-07-24 06:24:14

This plant is in ditches near Milaca, MN. I have spotted clumps in a few different places.

Posted by: Timothy Johnson - Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County
on: 2020-06-18 21:19:24

One plant volunteered in a section along my boulevard that I have allowed to naturalize. A prairie mix was seeded on other parts of my yard over 30 years ago but no penstemon has been seen for decades until now.

Posted by: Merlin - Roseville
on: 2021-05-05 17:58:31

This flower appeared on its own on my backyard hillside several years ago. I gathered and distributed seeds nearby. Now there is a nice cluster of them growing. Lovely flower, and the pollinators like it, too.

Posted by: Shana - Ramsey County, Saint Paul
on: 2021-06-07 08:24:36

One volunteer plant on my front hill where I've planted some prairie smoke, butterfly weed, pasque flower, purple cone flower, blazing star, and mound grasses. I haven't seen any of these in the neighborhood.

Posted by: Owen Schlehuber - Sunfish Lake
on: 2021-06-09 14:38:18

There's a single plant growing on the edge of an open woodland area (not quite savannah). There's been no restoration or seeding done to my knowledge. One of my favorite native plants and I'm excited to see it, even if it is a garden escapee.

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