Penstemon albidus (White Beardtongue)
|Also known as:||White Penstemon|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; sandy or gravelly soil; dry prairies, hillsides|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||6 to 20 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Three to 10 opposite pairs of flower clusters on short, erect to ascending stalks arising from leaf axils in the upper plant, with 2 to 7 short-stalked flowers in each cluster. Flowers are tubular, white, up to ~¾ inch (16 to 20 mm) long, the lower lip with 3 downward pointing lobes of similar size and shape, the upper lip erect and lobed in 2 parts only slightly smaller than the lower lobes. Inside the tube are several reddish or purplish lines that act as nectar guides, 4 black-tipped stamens hugging the upper part of the tube, and a white style.
The floral tube is funnel-shaped, gradually inflated from near the base. The calyx holding the flower is green to purple and has 5 lance to triangular lobes shorter than the floral tube. The calyx, flower stalks and outer surface of the petals are all densely covered in short glandular hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are basal and opposite along the stem. Basal and lower stem leaves are narrowly lance-elliptic to somewhat spatula-shaped, to 3½ inches (to 8.5+ cm) long and ¼ to ¾ inch (7 to 19 mm) wide, mostly toothless, hairless or somewhat hairy, blunt to pointed at the tip, tapering at the base, on a stalk shorter than the blade.
Leaves become stalkless and more lance-like up the stem, pointed at the tip and often with a few small teeth around the edges, and are reduced to bracts in the flower clusters. Stems are single to several from the base, unbranched, green to purple, glandular-hairy near the flowers and more softly hairy near the base.
Fruit is a capsule up to ½ inch (8 to 12 mm) long containing numerous seeds.
White Beardtongue is a prairie species common in the Great Plains and reaches the eastern edge of its range in western Minnesota, where it can be found in gravel and bluff prairies, sandy hillsides, and railroad rights-of-way. The flowers of White Penstemon are similar to Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) but the latter has larger flowers, the clusters on longer stalks, and is generally a larger plant, reaching heights of up to 3 feet.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Big Stone County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Big Stone and Otter Tail counties, and in South Dakota.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?