Wild Flowers and Plants of NC
Blooms May - June
The Figwort Family is quite large, containing about three thousand species of mostly herbaceous plants that are widely distributed throughout the world. Native wild flowers in this family include Turtleheads, Indian Paint Brush, and Wood Betony. Penstemon genus consists of some three hundred species in North America, all featuring opposite leaves, erect stems with a terminal cluster of nodding flowers, and a strong fragrance. Two very similar species P. smallii and P. canescens both grow in the mountains of NC.
Growing one and a half to two feet tall, this endemic finds its home on well drained soil where it can receive sun roughly half the day, such as on the edge of woods and along roadsides. Just four short weeks of glory is all the blooming time this lovely perennial receives, beginning mid-May and ending in mid-June. The flowers are pink to purple, turning white towords the tube, with purple nectar guides on the lower petals, a good indication of pollination by insects. One stamen is sterile and is heavily bearded with yellow trichomes, or hairs. It projects from the center of the flower like a tounge, thus giving the plant its namesake.
NC Range of Penstemon canescens