Penstemon barbatus (Cav.) Roth.

by , Native Plants Class
Common Names: Beardlip penstemon, Bearded Tongue, Scarlet Bugler
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Synonymy: Penstemon frutescens (former name) (5)
Etymology: The genus name originates from the fact that one of the five (pente) stamens is sterile and visually distinctive from the others (4). The epithet "barbatus" means "bearded" in Latin and refers to the inside of the flower tube (2).

Growth form: Herbacious small shrub
Roots: Deep roots. These plants need constant, but well-drained water during the entire growing season. (5, 6)
Stem: Only a few stems are present per plant. (5) The stems are only present for the flowers to grow upon. When the plant is not flowering, there are no stems. (6)
Leaves: Linear to lance-shaped, green to blue leaves. Opposite. Entire. Up to 5" long. (3) They form a basal rosette until the plant flowers. (6)
Inflorescence/flowers: Red corollas with a reflexed lower lip. The bottom edge of the flower bends back towards the stem. Sterile stamen has noticeable hairs(4). 1-1 ½ inches in length (3). Flowers are singly arranged on a main stalk.
Fruit: A multitude of seeds are dispersed from each plant after it flowers. (5)
Similar species: Penstemon rostriflorus (5)

Life history: Short lived perennial (5)
Native/Introduced: Native (1)
Photosynthetic pathway: C3
Phenology: Blooms from June to October, in AZ after early summer rains and monsoon rains. Pollinated by hummingbirds (3).
Distribution: Elevation: 4,000-10,000 ft (3). Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Texas (1).

Medicinal: Some Native American tribes use it for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases-used both internally and externally. (5)

1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plants Profile. Accessed 5 December 2002.

2. Schneider, A. "Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, Ferns, & Trees." Last updated 16 November 2002. Accessed 5 December 2002.

3. Epple, A and L. A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona. Falcon Publishing, Inc.; Helena, MT: 1995.

4. Missouri Botanical Garden. "Plant Finder." Last updated October 2002. Accessed 5 December 2002.

5. Nold, R. Penstamons. Timber Press; Portland, OR: 1999.

6. Way, D. & James, P. The Gardener's Guide to Growing Penstemons. Timber Press; Portland, OR: 1998.

© Charles A. Washburn

© Charles A. Washburn