Plant Profile: Beardtongue
BY Matthew Bowen, Evan Hadley and Charlie Laporte
ON May 7, 2018
Penstemon digitalis, is a native wildflower found throughout Eastern Canada and the United States, as far south as Texas. It is commonly called Foxglove Beardtongue because the flower has the appearance of an open mouth with a hairy tongue inside. It is a herbaceous perennial that has white flowers from early June to late August. It can be identified via it’s:
- Simple, opposite leaves that have a long and narrow shape on the stem and ellipitcal basal leaves are elliptic.
- Bilaterally symmetrical flowers, with five fused petals, that are borne in panicles at the top of each stem.
- Flowers are white with a subtle violet hue, tubular shaped, with a bulge in the middle, growing to around 1" in length.
- A very prominent staminode.
This wildflower can be found along the edges of highways and forests, in fields, and in meadows. Open areas allow these plants to get as much sun and water as they need, as they won’t be competing with trees and other large plants. In order for these plants to bloom, they require warm to hot summer temperatures and well-drained soil. These plants prefer full sun and will grow to a height of 75-90 cm and about 5 cm wide.
Foxglove Beardtongue is extremely resistant to pests and disease. Powdery mildew is an occasional problem, but is more of an indicator of poor environmental conditions for the health of the plant. It can be caused by over watering, planting in poorly drained soil, or by poor air circulation around the plant. This fungal disease can easily be treated with fungicides, or by improving air circulation and soil drainage.
They are an important wildflower as they help may species! Due to the flower’s tubular shape, long tongued bees, such as Honeybees, Bumblebees (though a tight squeeze), Anthophorine bees, Miner bees, Mason bees, and Large Leaf Cutting bees tend to be the most common pollinators. Foxglove Beardtongue is also popular among many butterflies and moths, and it excels in attracting hummingbirds. Foxglove Beardtongue has also been used to help people. Native Americans used the roots in treatment of toothache and painful injuries, to prevent inflammation and accelerate healing of the open wounds.
Foxglove Beardtongue would be a great addition to any landscape, as it is a very popular horticulture plant world wide. It blooms early summer, showing white tubular flowers for several weeks! It attracts hummingbirds and other beneficial pollinators to your garden space. For the most dramatic effect, plant P. Digitalis together in clusters, rather than isolating single plants throughout the garden.It pairs nicely with Spiderworts and Prairie Blue-Eyed Grass. It is a great addition to any rain or pollinator garden!