Penstemon albidus (White Beardtongue)

Plant Info
Also known as: White Penstemon
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
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):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: whorled

[photo of flowers] 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.

[photo of hairy calyx and petals] 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: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of basal leaves] 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.

[photo of stem leaves] 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: Fruit type: capsule/pod

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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More photos

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?

Posted by: David - Zumbro Falls
on: 2014-07-14 19:04:11

I live East of Zumbro Falls, and have quite a good crop of this flower every year. I have been encouraging it, since it is such a pretty one, and I see that by your map I'm not supposed to have any of it here. I know that I have also seen it north of me along the Mississippi drainage. Dave

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