pale beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus)
small eastern white beard-tongue
Penstemon arkansanus Pennell var. pubescens Pennell
Penstemon brevisepalus Pennell
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for pale bread-
tongue is Penstemon pallidus Small. There are five recorded species of
the Genus Penstemon in Facquier County: 1) eastern gray beardtongue
(Penstemon canescens (Britt.) Britt.), 2) foxglove beardtongue (Pen-
stemon digitalis Nutt. ex Sims), 3) hairy beardtongue (Penstemon
hirsutus (L.) Willd., 4) eastern smooth beardtongue (Penstemon lae-
vigatus (L.) Aiton, and 5) pale beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus Small).
Of these five, two, pale beardtongue and foxglove beardtongue, are
believed to be present in Sky Meadows State Park. Distinguishing bet-
ween the two can be difficult; however, one distinction is the yellow
hairs that line the throat of the corolla of pale beardtongue. These hairs
do not occur with foxglove beardtongue.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States; Introduced, Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This native perennial wildflower is 1–2½' tall and unbranched.
The erect central stem is pale green, terete, and covered with short
Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 3" long and ¾" across; they are
linear-lanceolate or lanceolate-ob- long, pale green, and smooth to slight-
ly dentate along their margins (if teeth are present, they are small and
widely spaced). Both the lower and upper sur- faces of the leaves are short-pubescent.
Flowers: 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 be-
comes 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 pur-
ple 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 slight-
ly pubescent. The pedicels and calyces of the flowers are also pubescent.
There is no noticeable floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by a seed capsule containing several
REGENERATION PROCESS: Pale beardtongue propogates it-
self by reseeding.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include dry rocky woodlands, hill prairies,
dry-mesic railroad prairies, sandstone and limestone glades, upland savan-
nas, thinly wooded bluffs, rocky cliffs, and abandoned fields. Occasional
wildfires are beneficial in maintaining populations of this species, particu-
larly in wooded habitats.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Full to partial sun and mesic to dry condi-
tions 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 aggres-
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
spring to early summer and lasts about 3 weeks.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Pale beardtongue primarily occurs
naturally in the eastern portion of the United States. It occurs from Georgia
north to Maine (excepting South Carolina and Deleware), and westward
through the Ohio Valley to the Mississippi River and into the eastern most
part of the Plains states, Arkansas north to Minnesota. It also occurs in
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Not much is known about floral-faunal rela-
tionships 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. Gener-
ally, mammalian herbivores appear to avoid consumption of the foliage,
and birds display little interest in the seeds.
Crooked Run Valley