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Penstemon canescens (Eastern gray penstemon)
Muller, Thomas L.

Penstemon canescens

Penstemon canescens (Britton) Britton

Eastern Gray Penstemon, Eastern Gray Beardtongue

Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Synonym(s): Penstemon brittoniorum, Penstemon canescens var. brittoniorum, Penstemon canescens var. typicus

USDA Symbol: PECA8

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Delicate, erect stems, usually several from the same rhizome, are 16-32 in. tall. Pale-lavender to purple or whitish, snapdragon-like flowers occur in pairs along the upper part of the stem. The paired, stem foliage is dark-green.

This is one of numerous beardtongues, which are most common in the western United States. The common name beardtongue refers to the tuft of hairs found on the sterile stamen of many species, including this one. Cobaea Beardtongue (P. cobaea), found on prairies and rocky bluffs from Nebraska east to Ohio, southwest through Missouri to Texas, and north to Kansas, reaches a height of 2' (60 cm) and has downy, clasping leaves and white to deep purple flowers to 2" (5 cm) long.


From the Image Gallery

6 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 32 inches tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Pale lavender to purple or whitish, with lavender or purple nectar guides.


USA: AL , GA , IL , IN , KY , MD , NC , OH , PA , SC , TN , VA , WV
Native Distribution: C. PA to s. IN, s., chiefly in the mts., to SC & n.e. AL
Native Habitat: Shady banks spreading to roadsides, fields & woods

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Dry, sandy soils.

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Division is the easiest method of increase. Separate crowns in fall or early spring. Prune back the foliage of each new division. Propagate also by seed.
Seed Treatment: Germination is best with cold-moist stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Penstemon canescens in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Penstemon canescens in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Penstemon canescens


Record Modified: 2023-02-22
Research By: TWC Staff

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