Penstemon grandiflorus (Large Beardtongue)

Plant Info
Also known as: Large-flowered Beardtongue, Large-flowered Penstemon
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, savannas, rock outcrops, Jack pine stands
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:12 to 40 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flowers] Three to 9 opposite pairs of flower clusters on very short stalks arising from leaf axils in the upper plant, with 2 to 4 short-stalked flowers in each cluster. Flowers are lavender to purplish-pink or occasionally blue, up to 2 inches (3.5 to 5 cm) long, tubular, the lower lip extending out and down with 3 rounded lobes, the upper lip erect and lobed in 2 parts somewhat smaller than the lower lobes. Inside the tube are several darker purplish lines, 4 black-tipped stamens hugging the upper part of the tube, a white style, and a white sterile stamen sparsely hairy on the tip end.

[photo of calyx and flower stalks] The floral tube is abruptly inflated from the lower third. The calyx holding the flower is light green to blue-green, hairless, and has 5 lance to triangular lobes shorter than the floral tube. Flower stalks are hairless and light green to purplish.

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

[photo of basal leaves] Leaves are basal and opposite along the stem, blue-green often covered in a waxy bloom. Basal and lowest stem leaves are stalked, toothless, hairless, spatula-shaped to elliptic, 1 to 6+ inches (3 to 16 cm) long, up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide, rounded to pointed at the tip, tapering at the base.

[photo of stem leaves] Stem leaves are mostly ascending, up to 3½ inches (to 9cm) long, half to nearly as wide, more broadly egg-shaped to nearly round, stalkless, more rounded and clasping at the base, reduced to bracts on the upper stem. Stems are erect, single or a few from the base, unbranched, hairless, and light green or purple-tinged with a waxy bloom.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a teardrop shaped capsule ½ to 1 inch (16 to 25 mm) long, dark brown at maturity, containing numerous seeds.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are 2 to 4 millimeters long, dark brown, angular and irregularly shaped.


Large Beardtongue is a common sight in prairies of the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. It is commonly included in restoration plantings and makes a great garden plant. When flowering, it won't likely be confused with anything else with its large pinkish-purple flowers. When flowers or fruits are absent, it may resemble 2 non-native weeds: Balkan Catchfly (a.k.a. Biennial Campion, Silene csereii), which has narrower stem leaves sharply pointed at the tip, and Dalmation Toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), which has alternate leaves, where Beardtongue leaves are opposite.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, Lac Qui Parle and Ramsey counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in his garden.


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

Posted by: Lesli F
on: 2009-06-13 10:33:24

Lots of these growing alongside the roads in East Bethel Minnesota. Are they considered 'endangered here? I noticed they are on that list for Illinois.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-06-13 16:10:35

Large beardtongue is not considered a rare or endangered plant in MN. If you check the county distribution map (see above) you'll see it has a pretty large range in MN.

Posted by: Sue
on: 2009-06-15 13:28:13

Was riding horse trails in Upper Sioux Agency State Park - Granite Falls, MN. There were many of these in bloom but scattered. A pleasant site beside the trail.

Posted by: Alan - Hubbard County
on: 2009-07-19 20:13:52

Found several plants along the Heartland Trail between Nevis and Akeley.

Posted by: mike - camden state park lynd mn
on: 2010-05-24 15:15:09

i was told it is blue bell alfalfa only saw them onece and am still looking for them again in the park

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-05-26 15:28:40

I'm not sure what they were trying to tell you but Penstemon and alfalfa are not related species.

Posted by: Joel - Wild River State Park
on: 2010-05-31 22:10:05

In full bloom on May 31, 2010 at Wild River State Park.

Posted by: Robbi - Stearns County
on: 2010-06-11 22:29:46

This plant is in bloom in Stearns County. June 10, 2010

Posted by: Fred - Lake Bemidji State Park
on: 2010-06-13 19:11:09

In bloom in north roadside ditch of Country Road 20 next to Lake Bemidji State Park. 6-13-2010.

Posted by: Dave - Pope County
on: 2010-06-14 14:15:18

Quite a few Penstemon Grandiflorus at Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck. The patch along the road just east of the front entrance is about done blooming but there are lots blooming now along the trail out to Kettle Lake.

Posted by: Joe - Anoka Co.
on: 2010-09-08 18:40:15

Just outside the city of Anoka, there are scattered colonies of this flower by the Regional Treatment Center (a.k.a. the state hospital), viewable from 7th Avenue North, and by the Rum River Library which is just a bit further east. The library grounds have a tiny prairie restoration project, with this plant and tallgrass species, such as turkey-foot grass.

Posted by: Dave @Glacial Lakes State Park - Pope County, 3 miles south of Starbuck
on: 2011-06-06 22:53:13

The Large Beardtongue just started blooming. Lots of them flowering in the park this year, we've had lots of moisture.

Posted by: Marcia - Judson / Lake Crystal
on: 2011-06-08 12:54:12

I noticed Penstemon grandiflorus blooming in my little prairie planting this morning, 6/8/11. It's a beautiful plant and has lovely flowers!

Posted by: Stacy - Frazee
on: 2011-06-14 22:31:53

I saw them for the first time this evening when I took a walk around Frazee while my daughter was at dance class. They were growing on a bank near the railroad tracks. Very pretty!

Posted by: Ben - Eden Prairie
on: 2011-06-24 08:14:52

These are done blooming now, but there are scattered patches along Hwy 212 and Hwy 5. Very nice

Posted by: Abrahm - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
on: 2012-05-21 14:00:41

Found many of these blooming on 5/18/12 at the Grey Cloud Dunes SNA.

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2013-06-09 10:23:13

Just starting to bloom in Grey Cloud Dunes SNA. 6-9-12

Posted by: Barb - St. Paul
on: 2013-07-16 12:01:02

Found a small population at Edgewood Middle School in Mounds View on June 20. Wasn't sure what it was so I sent images to the DNR for ID. Fun!

Posted by: Charles - Ivanhoe, MN
on: 2014-02-25 22:49:59

About 6 years ago we had a purple penstemon appear in our flower garden and now we have several plants growing along our patio. It produces several seed pods each season and what would be the best way to store them? We would like to plant these seeds in some of the wild areas in Lincoln County,MN.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-02-26 04:55:20

Charles, I don't know about Penstemon in particular, but the seed for most prairie plants stores well enough in a brown paper bag or paper envelope kept in a cool, dry place. Too much humidity can rot the seed hence the paper container, so it can breathe and stay dry.

Posted by: cheryl - Elm Creek Park
on: 2014-06-11 14:40:56

Blooming now at Elm Creek Park Reserve in the prairie restoration area.

Posted by: Maia - Sherburne NWA
on: 2014-06-13 14:26:02

In full bloom now

Posted by: Cathy - East Bethel
on: 2014-06-17 08:04:54

I have some growing in an area that I seeded with native grasses and flowers from Prairie Restoration Inc. This particular area was seeded 3 years ago, it's the first time I've seen it. Does it hurt this flower to burn every 3 years?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-06-17 09:01:25

Periodic burning is A Good Thing for prairie plants!

Posted by: Deane - Park Rapids
on: 2014-06-19 07:56:03

There are two nice stands between Park Rapids and Dorset on the Heartland Trail, which has a richer than expected display of prairie flowers all summer long.

Posted by: Philip - Anoka county
on: 2014-06-20 23:37:33

Doing wild animal control on a five acre property in Oak Grove, these flowers are breathtaking. They are everywhere I look. I will inform the new owner of what she has growing all around her property. thank you, this site is helpful. Trapper Phil

Posted by: Be Biking Mary - Mpls and Mounds View
on: 2014-06-26 20:33:30

I just IDed this plant at your site, finally. Thank you so much! I've seen this outstanding wildflower for 2 years now and looked pretty hard last year and wasn't able to find it or anyone who knew what it was. So, I'm thrilled. It's just finishing its bloom now, so you probably can't appreciate it this year, but there are well established groups along the Mississippi bike trail just north of the 42nd Ave bridge on the upper or prairie trail (they like sun) and north of CR I in Mounds View next to the upper or prairie section of the Rice Creek Trail where the trail runs fairly close to the townhouses.

Posted by: Diana - Waterville
on: 2014-06-29 13:20:10

We just saw a beautiful stand on the Munger bike trail on the hill leading up to the city park in Sturgeon Lake, MN! It was the first time I'd seen these flowers and had a difficult time identifying them. They are light lavender and breath-taking!

Posted by: Charles - Ivanhoe, MN
on: 2014-09-05 23:15:05

We have had this beautiful plant volunteer in several areas of our flower beds the past 6 or 8 years and in different locations every couple years. Thinking about spreading the seed pods in wild life areas but I don't know if that is the thing to do because of spraying activity in these areas. Would like to be able to return these flower seeds to wild areas but not sure of most effective way to do so.

Posted by: Gabriel - South Minneapolis
on: 2015-06-03 21:15:01

I planted this in my dry hill garden. It's one of my favorites, because it has lovely gray-green leaves, the flowers are huge, and the flower clusters are wonderfully structured. The flowering season isn't long, but the leaves provide interest for the rest of the year. I sowed the seeds around and got a bunch of seedlings. Regrettably I thought they were something else and pulled some up before I realized it. The seeds need light for germination, so sow them on bare soil in sun. The plants look best in clumps, so move the seedlings to about 6 inches apart in a group.

Posted by: Steve - City of Shoreview
on: 2015-06-18 08:50:58

This plant is growing along the Rice Creek regional Trail(Ramsey Co. trail system). There is a parking lot for the trail just east of the intersection of I35W and County Rd J. The plant is flowering at this time it is moderately abundant near the parking lot and along the trail further north.

Posted by: Mike - Glenwood Township
on: 2016-06-08 20:18:34

We have several of these plants in a native prairie area on farmland here. A nice plant to see blooming in June

Posted by: Donna A - Southern Beltrami County
on: 2016-07-02 05:33:11

I have these growing in my ditch. I ask the township not to mow and after the seed pods are dried and cracking I mow the ditch. They seem to like the gravelly dry condition of the edge of the road. The bumble bees love them too!

Posted by: Jonathan E - Kittson County
on: 2016-09-21 20:44:55

I see a large number of these growing along State Highway 11 in Roseau County, but nowhere else nearby. Is this possibly a planted population, or does someone have records of it being native north of U.S. hwy 2?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-09-22 08:47:24

Jonathan, just because there are no records doesn't mean it isn't a natural population. We find new county records all the time. But it is possible it is a restoration or other planting. No way to know for certain.

Posted by: Mary A - Renville County
on: 2017-06-07 14:44:55

Saw one of these growing near a fresh water spring on the bottom road west of Fort Ridgely.

Posted by: David G - Shoreview
on: 2018-06-05 21:12:42

I had to look this one up. It's blooming right now in Rice Creek North Regional Trail, NW Shoreview, Ramsey County. Some are visible from the paved path.

Posted by: Wayne Goeken - ERSKINE
on: 2019-06-15 09:58:37

Hundreds of large-flowered beardtongue now blooming throughout Fertile Sand Hills just west of City of Fertile--along with spiderwort and many other prairie species. Photos available.

Posted by: Ethan Swanson - Elk River
on: 2019-06-15 13:16:34

Several of these blooming at Oliver Kelley Farm near Elk River

Posted by: Sharon L Adams - Wyoming
on: 2020-06-11 19:39:09

I saw one plant on 6/11/2020 on the Wyoming walking trail on 61 just south of Viking Blvd.

Posted by: Heidi Hughes - Pembina Trail - Marshall County
on: 2020-06-15 18:15:54

In bloom today (June 15, 2020)

Posted by: Ted Christenson - Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, St. Michael
on: 2020-06-20 16:13:49

Saw this blooming in the meadows today, the summer solstice, at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve.

Posted by: Mary - Dakota Rail Trail, Carver County
on: 2022-06-10 21:21:24

Saw these in bloom June 9, 2022 along the Dakota Rail Trail (bike trail) east of Mayer, MN. They are lovely!

Posted by: Linda Lockwood - Anoka
on: 2022-06-13 11:45:36

Thousands of these blooming now on land near Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center along 7th Ave in Anoka.

Posted by: Mary S Igoe - Near Grand Marais, Cook County
on: 2023-06-27 10:07:03

Spotted several plants along the recently completed section of the Gitchi-Gami state bike trail near Grand Marais. Wondering if the seed came with the fill they were using on the trail. Have never seen them here before. Beautiful!

Posted by: Michele - I 90 rest stops
on: 2024-06-04 11:54:17

at the rest stop along I 90 Growing alongside the edges of the manicured grass in the tall grass, these lovely flowers were shooting up everywhere right along side Stiff Goldenrod, a lovely little white flower Nice to be traveling through this beautiful state and see such lovely native flowers

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