Monday, June 7, 2010

Foxglove Penstemon

foxglove penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)?
The penstemons are blooming in the prairie. This is a smaller plant about two feet tall. I think it is Penstemon digitalis but there are at least 8 white or whitish species in our area and it is difficult to tell them apart. Penstemons are also blooming along the river corridor and here again I am unable to distinguish between the species. Penstemons are one of the largest plant groups native to the United States. Most species prefer a drier climate and are found in abundance out west but this showy little plant is abundant in our area and seems more prevalent than in past years.


  1. Well, I think the digitalis in the Latin name is a reference to the leaves of the (purple) foxglove, a different plant. This penstemon is "like a foxglove."

    However, Robert Nold, in his 1999 book "Penstemons," says generally of these plants:

    "Penstemons have found a place in ethnobotany, figuring most importantly in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. All parts of the plant are used in various medicinal preparations, including poultices and teas, used both externally and internally."

    He concludes the paragraph with the personal advice, based on taste implications of some popular plant names, that "culinary consumption of penstemons is therefore not recommended."

  2. I've always thought this was pale beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus Small), but I have operated under many misconceptions in my 50-odd years!

  3. I do have a hard time differentiating the white penstemons. The penstemon in this post is growing in a very wet area and I thought P. pallidus grew in drier areas...but I will have to take a closer look. Thanks!

    Of course what isn't wetter these days?