Plant Description

Penstemon albertinus
Alberta Beardtongue

Family: Figwort (Scrophulariaceae)

General Description:

a glandular-hairy herb with clustered stems arising from woody root crowns. The stems are typically are 20 cm tall but may grow up to 40 cm. Bright blue flowers grow at the tips of the stems.

  • creeping
  • erect

Life Cycle:
  • herbaceous perennial-wintergreen

  • forb

  • Native

Phenology: flowers June to July

It grows throughout Canada and Alaska, in the US it grows throughout the country, particularly in Northwestern states such as Idaho and Montana. Locally it can be found around the base of Mt. Sentinel.


There are nearly 30 species of Penstemon in our area, and over 100 species in the Rocky Mountains. Alberta penstemon is glandular-hairy , with hairless anthers and flowers which distinguishes it from most of the other species. P. wilcoxii has larger leaves, generally 2.5cm or more wide, and taller (up to 1m tall) and extends into the edges of forests.

Did You Know?:

The genus name Penstemon was originally written Pentstemon, meaning 5 stamens. Having five stamens, one of which is infertile, is characteristic of this genus of plants. The former scientific name of this species was Penstemon caelestinus. Several species of penstemon are edible to wildlife and domestic sheep. Ground squirrels often eat their seeds. Penstemons are popular garden flowers. They are easy to start from seeds. The native penstemons are good species to grow in waterwise gardens.


funnel-shaped and about 15-20 mm long, they are bright blue with pale throats. The upper lip of the flower has two lobes and the lower lip has 3 lobes which are white or yellow and hairy. The flowers grow in whorls from the axils of the upper leaves, and exist on 5-15 mm long stalks. There are five stamens, one of which is infertile.

Flower Arrangement:
  • raceme
Flower Color:
  • blue-purple
  • pink-red
Flowering Months:
  • spring
Flower Shape:
  • 2-lipped

Cones/Fruits: 5 mm long capsules containing multiple seeds

Fruit Type:
  • capsule

bright green, thick, and opposite, about 2-5 cm long. Near the base the leaves are stalked, the farther up the stem they grow, the narrower they become and the stalks disappear. The leaves may have some small, irregular teeth. In the fall and winter leaves are often a deep red or purple underneath. This apparently gives them some protection against cold temperatures in the winter.

Leaf Arrangement:
  • opposite
Basal Leaves:
  • smooth
  • toothed
Leaf Division:
  • simple
Leaf Margin:
  • smooth
  • toothed
Leaf Shape:
  • widest at base
Leaf Stem:
  • without stem
Leaf Tooth:
  • pointed forward

dry open areas and rocky slopes and foothills.

Non-Forest Habitats:
  • cliffs/rocks
  • grassland
  • sagebrush
Forest Habitats:
  • limber pine-douglas fir
  • ponderosa pine
Disturbed Habitats:
  • burn
  • clearcut
  • roadside
  • overgrazed
  • Frank Janes
  • (June 14 2004)
  • 1. Dorn, R. D. 1984. Vascular Plants of Montana. Mountain West Publishing. Cheyenne, WY.
  • 5. Kershaw,L.; MacKinnon,A.; Pojar, J. 1998. Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton, AB Canada.
  • 11. USDA, NRCS. 2005. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. USDA, NRCS. Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
  • 15. Pavia,J. 2003. Rocky Mountain Wildlflowers. Fulcrum, Publ. Golden, Colorado.
  • 80. Craighead, J.; Craighead Jr., F.; Davis, R. 1963. A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.