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Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus)

Life history

Species overview

Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on dry gravelly and sandy prairies, or in hillside oak woodlands. It is also naturalized on roadsides. Blooming occurs late May through late June; fruiting occurs late July through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through late June.

Synonyms: Penstemon hirsutus var. minimus, P. hirsutus var. pygmaeus


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Widespread. Corolla violet.
  • Flower characteristics: Calyx 4 to 7 mm at anthesis, at maturity more than 1/2 as long as the fruit; corolla 2 to 3 cm, the tube very slender, pale violet outside, pale and hairy inside, but lacking purple lines, lobes white, mouth may or may not be closed by the arched base of the lower lip.
  • Fruit characteristics: Fruit divides through the septa and between the locules.
  • Leaf characteristics: Cauline leaves opposite, lanceolate to oblong, 5 to 12 cm long, toothed or almost entire, rounded or truncate at the base.


  • Blooming phenology: late May through late June
  • Fruiting phenology: late July through late August
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late May through late June


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Not recorded for Wisconsin specimens.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Penstemon hirsutus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on dry gravelly and sandy prairies, or in hillside oak woodlands. It is also naturalized on roadsides.
  • Soils: Dry, gravelly or sandy soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Hairy Beardtongue. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Dry Prairie 3
Dry-mesic Prairie 3
Oak Opening 2
Pine Barrens 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Hairy Beardtongue. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid locating landings, staging areas, or access routes in open sandy areas dominated by native grasses.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.


Hairy Beardtongue Photo.

Photo by Kathryn Kirk, Wisconsin DNR.

Hairy Beardtongue Photo.

Penstemon hirsutus

Photo © Suzan Campbell.

Hairy Beardtongue Photo.

Penstemon hirsutus

Photo © Suzan Campbell.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition