Penstemon grandiflorus (Large Beardtongue)
|Also known as:||Large-flowered Beardtongue, Large-flowered Penstemon|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, Lac Qui Parle and Ramsey counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in his garden.
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