Strange Name, Beautiful Flower

Penstemon multiflorus
Many-flower beardtongue

Found blooming now on the Oval, this pretty little wildflower has an unusual name! This prolific late-spring and summer bloomer is native to the coastal plains of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. These plants are great for those looking to conserve water as they can thrive in dry conditions and poor soils, typical of the flatwoods and sandhills. They also perform well in other habitats that have evolved to be fire-based ecosystems.

Penstemon multiflorus has a predominantly white flower, though occasionally it appears as a purplish-white flower. The inflorescence is its primary ornamental characteristic and allows this plant to be at home in naturally occurring wildflower fields, or in a formal garden in a downtown neighborhood. When used sparingly the flower of Penstemon multiflorus could be described as cherubic, that can add a sense of whimsy to a spring planting. While using the flower en masse can create a dramatic sweeping presence in a larger landscape.

The Xerces Society has recognized Penstemon multiflorus as attracting a significant amount of native bees. Penstemon multiflorus propensity for attracting native bees is an understated quality, there are over 4,000 species of bees native to North America, according to the Xerces Society. The common honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a wonderful pollinator, but it is unfortunately not one of our native bees.

Utilizing Penstemon multiflorus in your home garden can help improve your pollinator diversity. Hummingbirds have also been known to visit these prolific wildflowers as well. For more information regarding native pollinators the book “Attracting Native pollinators” is highly recommended.
The genus Penstemon comes from the Greek words “Penta,” meaning five, and “Stemon,” which means stamen. The specific epithet simply means many-flowered.

This blog was written by Brendan Huggins, Director of Horticulture and photographed by Erica Smith, Director of Marketing.

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