• Penstemon digitalis - Foxglove


    "Penstemon digitalis is a clump-forming perennial in the plantain family that can be found in the mountains of NC. It grows up to 5 feet tall in prairies, wood margins, and open woods of eastern and central USA. In late spring to early summer, tall clusters of showy white tubular flowers appear that attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. It has no serious disease or pest problems.

    "This plant adapts easily to cultivation and prefers well-drained, moist to dry loamy soils and tolerates clay soil if it is well-drained. Plant in full sun to light shade in small groups in the native/pollinator garden, naturalized areas or borders." (North Carolina Extension) 

    Penstemon Digitalis Botany by Dr. John Hilty

    Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae)

    Botanical illustration of Penstemon digitalis (Eaton)


    "The preference is full or partial sun, average levels of moisture, and loamy soil. This plant matures quickly during the spring, and the flowering stalks often ascend above neighboring plants. It adapts well to cultivation, is not bothered by disease, and is easy to grow. Under severe drought conditions, however, the leaves may turn yellow and the plant will wilt." (Hilty) 

    The purple floral patterns of Penstemon digitalis serve to attract pollinators. (Mayer)

    Faunal Associations: 

    "The tubular flowers of this plant attract long-tongued bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorine bees, Miner bees, Mason bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees. To a lesser extent, Halictid bees, butterflies, Sphinx moths, and hummingbirds may visit the flowers, but they are not effective pollinators. The caterpillars of the moth Elaphria chalcedonia (Chalcedony Midget) feed on the foliage of this and other beardtongues. There have been reports that the caterpillars of the butterfly Euphydryes phaeton (Baltimore) feed on the foliage of various beardtongues, but this does not appear to be the case in Illinois. The seeds are not often eaten by birds, nor is the foliage an attractive source of food to mammalian herbivores, although they may browse on it when little else is available." (Hilty)

    Bumble bee (Bombus spp.) feeding on Foxglove. (Kestell)


    1. By Country Gardens Nursery, Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved
    2. By Country Gardens Nursery, Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved
    3. By Eric Hunt - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72568406
    4.  "Penstemon digitalis, Great Falls Park, 6/3/13" by Fritz Flohr Reynolds is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
    5. Penstemon digitalis form by Michael Wolf, Penig is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

    North Carolina Extension plant description: Penstemon Digitalis (Foxglove Beardtongue, Tall White Beardtongue, White Beardtongue) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/penstemon-digitalis/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2022.

    John Hilty botany, cultivation, and faunal associations: John Hilty, "Foxglove Penstemon", Illinois Wildflowers, the publisher, Copyright 2004-2019. Accessed 3 February 2022

    Botanical illustration: "Addisonia" By Eaton, Mary E, Biodiversity Heritage LibraryNew York, New York Botanical Garden,1916, CC BY 2.0

    Penstemon floral patterns: "Tall Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)" by Joshua Mayer, Own Work, 5 July 2014, Wisconsin State Natural Area, CC BY-SA 2.0

    Flower with Bee: "Bumble bee (with a bum leg) on a penstemon" By Mike Kestell, Own Work, 14 June 2017, CC BY 2.0 - Link

    Information and images compiled by Erik N. Vegeto

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