Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Both the foliage and flowers of Large-Flowered Penstemon are beautiful and distinctive. Unfortunately, the blooming period of the flowers is rather short, but you can't have everything. Because of its distinctive bluish foliage and large flowers (up to 2" in length), this species is easy to distinguish from other Penstemon spp. that are native to Illinois. However, a non-native species from the west, Penstemon cobaea (Showy Penstemon), is somewhat similar in appearance and its flowers are equally large in size. Unlike Large-Flowered Penstemon, this latter species has pubescent stems, while its upper leaves and bracts have bases that are sessile, rather than clasping. Showy Penstemon has naturalized in Kane County, Illinois.
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Description

This is a short-lived perennial plant that forms a basal rosette during its first year, after which it produces one or more flowering stalks about 1-3½' tall from a thick rootstock. The basal leaves (2-5" long and 1-3" across) are pale grayish green or bluish green, ovate to obovate in shape, smooth along their margins, and glabrous, tapering either gradually or abruptly into petioles. They have a rather succulent texture. The stems of flowering plants are whitish green to pale red, terete (circular in cross-section), glabrous, and somewhat glaucous. The leaves along these stems are arranged oppositely; they are 2-4" in length and 1-2½" across. These latter leaves are pale grayish green to bluish green, ovate to ovate-cordate in shape, smooth along their margins, and glabrous; their tips are blunt. The leaves of each lower stem are sessile, while the smaller upper leaves often clasp the stem. Like the basal leaves, the opposite leaves have a rather succulent texture. From the axils of opposite leafy bracts (up to 1¼" long and ¾" across), there develops pairs of 1-3 flowers on short slender pedicels, forming a narrow raceme about ½-1½' long.  Each flower has a pinkish lavender corolla up to 2" long, a pale grayish green or bluish green calyx with 5 teeth, a pistil with a single white style, and 5 stamens. The corolla is tubular-trumpet shaped and slightly flattened; it has an upper lip with two rounded lobes and a lower lip with 3 rounded lobes. Within the throat of the corolla, there are fine purple veins that function as nectar guides. Along the upper outer surface of the corolla, there is a slender longitudinal ridge. The glabrous calyx is less than ½" in length; its teeth are lanceolate. The tip of the white style, where the stigma occurs, is slightly swollen. The leafy bracts of the flowers are similar in appearance to the opposite leaves, except they are smaller in size. Similar to the upper leaves, their bases clasp the stem. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 3 weeks. Each flower remains in bloom for only a short time. There is no floral scent. The flowers are replaced by ovoid seed capsules that are a little longer than the toothed calyx. Each capsule contains numerous small seeds. The seeds are distributed to a limited extent by the wind when the stems of flowering plants sway back and forth. The root system consists of a stout taproot with coarse secondary roots. This taproot extends deep into the soil. Cultivation
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Description

General: Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae). Large beardtongue is a native perennial that grows up to four feet tall. The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate to oblong, thick and fleshy; bluish-green with a waxy blue sheen and clasping at the base. The large two inch, pale purple flowers are five lobed and short lived (Runkel & Roosa 1989). The fruits are woody, egg shaped capsules that contain numerous small, angular, brown seeds (Freeman & Schofield 1991).

Distribution: Large beardtongue ranges from Wyoming to Texas, east to Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma (Steyermark 1963). For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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Alternative names

large-flowered beardtongue, showy beardtongue, pink beardtongue, shell-leaf penstemon, shell-leaf beardtongue, wild foxglove, Canterbury bells

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Large-Flowered Penstemon occurs in only a few northern or NW counties in Illinois (see Distribution Map), where it is rare and state-listed as 'endangered.' This plant is more common in states that are located to the west of the Mississippi River. Habitats include dry sand prairies, dolomite prairies, and gravelly hill prairies. Because of the showy flowers, Large-Flowered Penstemon is more often found in flower gardens, from where it rarely escapes. Fire is supposed to be harmful to the ecological success of this plant because its growing buds remain above ground. In its natural habitat, significant wildfires rarely occur because of the sparse vegetative cover. Faunal Associations
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: North Dakota, Wyoming, to Texas, east to Wisconsin, Indiana.

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Adaptation

Penstemon grandiflorus is commonly found in prairies, often in sandy or loamy soils. This plant prefers acid, neutral and alkaline soils and requires well-drained soils. It grows well when planted in open dry situations (Steyermark 1963), and can grow in semi-shade or no shade.

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

There are many species of PENSTEMON in our area; however, the combination of exceptionally large flowers and glabrous inflorescence and anthers distinguish this species from others. A hand lens may be required for identification.

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Large-Flowered Penstemon occurs in only a few northern or NW counties in Illinois (see Distribution Map), where it is rare and state-listed as 'endangered.' This plant is more common in states that are located to the west of the Mississippi River. Habitats include dry sand prairies, dolomite prairies, and gravelly hill prairies. Because of the showy flowers, Large-Flowered Penstemon is more often found in flower gardens, from where it rarely escapes. Fire is supposed to be harmful to the ecological success of this plant because its growing buds remain above ground. In its natural habitat, significant wildfires rarely occur because of the sparse vegetative cover. Faunal Associations
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Comments: Sandy to loamy prairies, open grassy areas. In Missouri it grows on prairie bluffs and loess hills in open grassy places (Steyermark, 1963).

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Dispersal

Establishment

Propagation by Seed: Penstemon grandiflorus seeds are best sown in the fall or spring in a greenhouse (Heuser 1997). The seeds should germinate within one to four months (Ibid.). When the seedlings are large enough to handle, place them into individual pots and plant them out in their permanent positions in the late spring.

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Large-Flowered Penstemon in Illinois

Penstemon grandiflorus (Large-Flowered Penstemon)
(Long-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen; short-tongued bees collect only pollen; flies feed on pollen; the skipper sucks nectar; all observations are from Reed, except those from Clinebell & Bernhardt and Crosswhite & Crosswhite as indicated below)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus affinis sn, Bombus auricomus sn, Bombus fervida sn, Bombus griseocallis sn (CB), Bombus pensylvanica sn (CB); Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora terminalis sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina sp. cp; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia dubitata sn cp olg, Synhalonia hamata sn; Anthophoridae (Xylocopini): Xylocopa virginica prf sn@prf np (CB); Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis sn (CB); Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis pilosifrons cp (Re, CB), Osmia distincta cp olg (Re, CC), Osmia simillima cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon virescens cp, Augochlorella persimilis cp (CB), Augochlorella striata cp fq (Re, CB), Lasioglossum spp. cp fq (CB), Lasioglossum acuminatum cp, Lasioglossum coriaceus cp, Lasioglossum cressonii cp, Lasioglossum nymphaearum cp, Lasioglossum paraforbesii cp, Lasioglossum pictus cp, Lasioglossum pilosus cp, Lasioglossum pruinosus cp, Lasioglossum rohweri cp; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis cp, Hylaeus mesillae cp

Flies
Syrphidae: Sphaerophoria sp. fp; Anthomyiidae: Hylemya sp. fp

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Polites peckius sn

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / spot causer
subimmersed, concentric to scattered pycnidium of Phyllosticta coelomycetous anamorph of Phyllosticta penstemonis causes spots on live leaf of Penstemon grandiflorus
Remarks: season: 10

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

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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Status

Please consult the Plants Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values.

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Somewhat available through native plant seed vendors in the Great Plains region. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Stem tip cuttings should be taken from the tips of healthy, non-flowering, semi-mature or mature shoots, between early summer and fall (Heuser 1997). Shoots can be cut into a number of usable sections at almost any time during the growing period (Ibid.).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans treated toothache by chewing the root pulp of plants in this genus and placing it in the cavity (Runkel & Roosa 1989). The Navajo applied a wet dressing of pounded leaves of large beardtongue to rattlesnake bites; they considered this an absolute antidote (Ibid.). A decoction of the leaves has been used in the treatment of chills and fevers (Moerman 1998).

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Wikipedia

Penstemon grandiflorus

Penstemon grandiflorus is a perennial plant of the genus Penstemon. Common names include large beardtongue.

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