Resources > Wildflower of the Year > Cobaea Penstemon

2018 Kansas Wildflower of the Year

Cobaea Penstemon — Penstemon cobaea

About Cobaea Penstemon

Cobaea Penstemon - field
Cobaea Penstemon - single
Cobaea penstemon photos
by Michael Haddock
Cobaea penstemon (Penstemon cobaea) is the Kansas Native Plant Society 2018 Wildflower of the Year (WOY).

At 1 to 3 feet in height, this species is clump forming with erect stems, and its leaves are opposite, clasping, serrate, dark green above and dull shiny green below. It is found throughout the eastern 2/3 of Kansas in dry open prairies, eroded pastures, and hillsides in limestone-based, sandy, or rocky soils where competition from other species is limited.

The penstemons were formerly in the Scrophulariaceae or Figwort family, but are now in the family Plantaginaceae (Plantain family). Penstemon cobaea also goes by the common names cobaea beardtongue, prairie penstemon, prairie beardtongue, foxglove penstemon, and foxglove beardtongue. The name “penstemon” makes reference to its 5-parted flower (five fused petals and five stamens). In addition to four fertile stamens, the one sterile stamen has tufts of hairs at the bottom of the tubular-shaped flower that can look like a bearded tongue; hence the name “beardtongue.”

With showy, large (2”), white to pink to purple flowers in May and June, this species is a popular landscaping plant to use in full sun native gardens where it grows well in dry to medium well-drained soils. Pods of cobaea penstemon produce a high volume of seeds which readily germinate after 30 days of cold/moist stratification.

Penstemon cobaea attracts a variety of wildlife including bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.

For more photos and a detailed description of Cobaea penstemon, visit kswildflower.org.