Penstemon gracilis (Slender Beardtongue)

Plant Info
Also known as: Lilac Penstemon, Slender Penstemon
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; prairies, open rocky woods
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:12 to 18 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
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] Flowers are in groups of 2 or more on stalks that arise from the leaf axils in the upper plant, in a spike-like cluster. Each flower is tubular, pale violet to purple on the outside and about ¾ inch long. There are 5 lobes; the upper 2 lobes are shortest and turn up, the lower 3 extend out and turn down. The inside of the tube is white at the center, with darker purple veins on the inside of the lobes, a fuzzy (bearded) orange “flap” down the center, and 5 yellow-tipped stamens that turn dark brown with maturity.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are narrow, to 3 inches long and 1/3 inch wide near the base of the plant, becoming progressively smaller as they ascend the stem. Leaves are widest at their base, taper to a pointed tip, have tiny teeth around the edges, and no stalk. Attachment is opposite.


All Penstemon species were formerly in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family, but are now in Plantaginaceae (Plantain).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Glacial Ridge State Park, Pope County.


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

Posted by: Joel - Wild River State Park
on: 2010-05-31 22:08:02

I also have a picture, but it's a little out-of-focus.

Posted by: Ben - Eden Prairie
on: 2011-06-24 08:33:10

There's a similar penstamon blooming here now, but I think it's penstamon digitalis, not penstamon gracilis, mostly based on the fuller leaves and flower clusters. These plants are beautiful in patches.

Posted by: Dick - ND near Westhope
on: 2012-02-22 09:48:52

I found two of these plants growing in an old cemetery North of my farm. I have a close up picture if you want it.

Posted by: Gretchen - Pine County
on: 2012-06-28 09:01:54

Found several pockets of this in St. Croix state Park. I noticed you didn't have any location for Pine County so I thought I would throw it out there for ya!

Posted by: Bill - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2016-06-20 11:33:09

I spent last year removing the buckthorn from the woods in our lot that we had just purchased, and this is one of the rewards that appeared this spring--they're on the edge of an oak-aspen-black cherry woods that continues to the Mississippi River.

Posted by: Deane - Park Rapids, MN
on: 2016-06-27 22:55:21

There is a group of these blooming now on the Heartland Trail just east of County 4. Several plants also bloom every year on Headwaters Country Club, visible if you hit your ball badly to the right on #3.

Posted by: Bill R - NW Pennington Co MN
on: 2017-06-24 21:39:59

A number of Beardtongue plants come up each May-June along side the driveway.

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2019-06-29 15:53:39

Lots blooming now in Sherburne county.

Posted by: Laurie Ollhoff - Farmington
on: 2020-06-11 20:34:52

I had three of these coming up. I didn’t know what they were and I was afraid I would end up with weeds everywhere. I did keep one just to see what it was. Now I am sad I pulled the others. I seem to get help from birds bringing me seeds. It’s their way of thanking me for all the food I serve them.

Posted by: Heidi Hughes - Marshall County on the Pembina Trail
on: 2021-06-16 19:42:33

Literally hundreds in bloom this week along the Pembina Trail in Marshall County

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