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Foxglove Beardtongue, Tall White Beardtongue, Mississippi Penstemon, Smooth White Beardtongue, Talus slope Beardtongue - Penstemon digitalis


Family: Plantaginaceae - Plantain family Genus Common Name: Beardtongue Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Penstemon digitalis - Foxglove Beardtongue, Tall White Beardtongue, Mississippi Penstemon, Smooth White Beardtongue, Talus slope Beardtongue. Penstemon is a large genus with over 250 species, all endemic to North America (most in the western part of the continent), except perhaps a single species in Asia. Many of these species are similar, and differences in species can be down to minutiae in characteristics, such a shape and hair features of the stamens. The Penstemon genus had long been included in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family based on morphological characteristics (stuff we can see), but relatively recent genetic work (1990s) determined that most plants classified in that family were not as closely related as previously thought. Along with species moved to other families, Penstemon was among a number of species moved to Plantaginaceae. There was disagreement about what the new family should be called; the scientists working on the effort preferred Veronicaceae, but due to a technicality in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) that name was rejected (published in 1782, prior to the 1789 cutoff for this type of name) and the new group of species are within the family Plantaginaceae.

Penstemon digitalis is a widespread species, being found in every state east of the Mississippi River except Florida, as well as 10 states west of that river. It's also found in eastern Canada. Some authorities think that this species was originally native only to the Mississippi River Basin. It is found in moist areas of meadows and open forests.

Found in:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV

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Penstemon digitalis

Distribution of Penstemon digitalis in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 16 Dec 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2015-May-21Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The beardtongue common name for Penstemon comes from the hairs that are found on the staminode (sterile 5th stamen). The genus name is derived from the Greek for five stamens. The staminode of Penstemon digitalis - aka Smooth White Beardtongue - is more sparsely hairy than that of most Penstemon species. The flowers may have violet nectar guide lines.
Penstemon digitalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2015-May-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The corolla of this Penstemon is among those that expand rapidly from the base into the main part of the blossom. The individual flowers are between 20mm and 35mm long. The sepals are generally under 7mm long.
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Penstemon digitalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2015-May-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
While the plant is mostly glabrous outside the inflorescence, within the inflorescence that is not the case. The corolla tubes and calyx are covered with glandular hairs.
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Penstemon digitalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2015-May-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
While there is a rosette of pedicellate basal leaves appearing before the flowering stem, the flowering stem has opposing, sessile leaves. The caudal leaves are more lanceolate than are the basal leaves. The leaves are normally glabrous and frequently shiny on the upper surface.
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Penstemon digitalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2015-May-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Penstemon digitalis can grow up to 5 feet tall, but more normally will reach around 3 feet in height. The panicle of white flowers (frequently with some pink hue) terminates the flowering stem.
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Penstemon digitalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2015-May-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The lower stem is generally glabrous (occasionally glaucous), while the mid and upper stem may have a few scattered hairs in lines.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Penstemon digitalis

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer