Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Pale Penstemon is a reasonably attractive wildflower that blooms a little earlier than other Penstemon spp. (Penstemons). It can be distinguished from these other species by its evenly pubescent foliage and the following characteristics of its corolla
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Description

This native perennial wildflower is 1–2½' tall and unbranched. The erect central stem is pale green, terete, and covered with short pubescence. The opposite leaves are up to 3" long and ¾" across; they are linear-lanceolate or lanceolate-oblong, pale green, and smooth to slightly dentate along their margins (if teeth are present, they are small and widely spaced). Both the lower and upper surfaces of the leaves are short-pubescent. The central stem terminates in a panicle of flowers that is taller than it is wide. Individual flowers are about ¾" long, consisting of a white tubular corolla and a short pale green calyx with 5 teeth. The corolla becomes gradually wider, forming an upper lip with 2 lobes and a lower lip with 3 lobes. The lower lip projects outward to a greater extent than the upper lip. Along the bottom of the corolla's interior, there are 3 faint purple veins and a pair of low ridges. Toward the throat of the corolla, there is an elongated patch of yellow hairs. The exterior of the corolla is slightly pubescent. The pedicels and calyces of the flowers are also pubescent. The blooming period occurs from mid-spring to early summer and lasts about 3 weeks. There is no noticeable floral scent. Each flower is replaced by a seed capsule containing several small seeds. This wildflower reproduces by reseeding itself.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Pale Penstemon is occasional throughout Illinois, except in east-central and some northern areas of the state, where it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution Map). Habitats include dry rocky woodlands, hill prairies, dry-mesic railroad prairies, sandstone and limestone glades, upland savannas, thinly wooded bluffs, rocky cliffs, and abandoned fields. Occasional wildfires are beneficial in maintaining populations of this species, particularly in wooded habitats.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Type Information

Isotype for Penstemon arkansanus var. pubescens Pennell
Catalog Number: US 1103719
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): F. W. Pennell
Year Collected: 1920
Locality: Sandstone woodland, Penters Bluff, Izard, Arkansas, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Pennell, F. W. 1922. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 73: 494.
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Isotype for Penstemon brevisepalus Pennell
Catalog Number: US 1601648
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): F. W. Pennell
Year Collected: 1923
Locality: Crossville., Cumberland, Tennessee, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Pennell, F. W. 1935. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia Monogr. 1: 227.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Pale Penstemon is occasional throughout Illinois, except in east-central and some northern areas of the state, where it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution Map). Habitats include dry rocky woodlands, hill prairies, dry-mesic railroad prairies, sandstone and limestone glades, upland savannas, thinly wooded bluffs, rocky cliffs, and abandoned fields. Occasional wildfires are beneficial in maintaining populations of this species, particularly in wooded habitats.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

Not much is known about floral-faunal relationships for this species, however insect visitors of its flowers are probably similar to those of Penstemon hirsutus (Hairy Penstemon). Such visitors would include bumblebees, Mason bees (Osmia spp.), Digger bees (Synhalonia spp.), and bee flies. Butterflies may also visit the flowers, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. The caterpillars of the moths Elaphria chalcedonia (Chalcedony Midget) and Pyrrhia exprimens (Purple-Lined Sallow) feed on Penstemon spp. (Penstemons); the caterpillars of the latter feed on the flowers, buds, and developing seed capsules. Generally, mammalian herbivores appear to avoid consumption of the foliage, and birds display little interest in the seeds.
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Pale Beardtongue in Illinois

Penstemon pallidus (Pale Beardtongue)
(Long-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen, while short-tongued bees collect pollen only; observations are from Petersen, Clinebell & Bernhardt, and Crosswhite & Crosswhite)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn (CB); Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn (CB), Bombus bimaculatus sn (CB), Bombus pensylvanica sn (CB); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina spp. cp (CB); Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia rosae sn (CB); Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis pilosifrons cp fq (CB), Hoplitis producta cp (CB), Osmia spp. cp fq (CB), Osmia atriventris (CC), Osmia distincta cp olg (CC), Osmia pumila (CC)

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella striata cp (CB), Halictus rubicunda (Pt), Lasioglossum sp. cp (CB)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Full to partial sun and mesic to dry conditions are preferred. Different kinds of soil are tolerated, including those containing clay-loam, sand, or rocky material. Reduced soil fertility is beneficial, because this reduces competition from taller and more aggressive plants.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Penstemon brevisepalus is treated by Weakley (Nov. 2012 draft) and Estes (2012) as a distinct species, distinguished by sepal and corolla characteristics. Kartesz (1999) considered P. brevisepalus a synonym of P. pallidus.

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