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Pale Beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus)

Life history

Species overview

Pale Beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in dry, often calcareous prairies, as well as hillside oak or jack pine woodlands. It is naturalized on roadsides and in pine plantations. 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 arkansanus var. pubescens, Penstemon brevisepalus


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Corolla white, the the lower lip commonly marked with purple lines.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence glandular, 10 to 25 cm; calyx 2.5 to 5 mm at anthesis; corolla 1.6 to 2.2 cm, white and marked with fine purple lines in the throat.
  • Fruit characteristics: Seeds 0.5 to 0.7 mm.
  • Leaf characteristics: Opposite, narrowly lanceolate or lance-oblong, may or may not be slightly hairy.


  • 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: Few noted in Wisconsin but include Pinus banksiana, Ulmus sp., Poa annua, Alyssum sp., Vicia villosa, and Hieracium aurantiacum.

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 Pale Beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus). 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 pallidus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
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 in dry, often calcareous prairies, as well as hillside oak or jack pine woodlands. It is naturalized on roadsides and in pine plantations.
  • Soils: Dry, often calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Pale 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 2
Sand Prairie 3
Pine Barrens 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Pale 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 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

  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.
  • 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).


Pale Beardtongue Photo.

Photo © Dan Tenaglia.

Pale Beardtongue Photo.

Photo © Lori Artiomow.

Pale Beardtongue Photo.

Notice the short hairs along the stem and lower lip of the corolla, which is notably longer than the upper lip.

Photo © Lori Artiomow.

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