Shrubby Penstemon
Penstemon fruticosus (Pursh) Greene
Family: Scrophulariaceae, Figwort
Genus: Penstemon
Other names: bush beardtongue
Nomenclature: fruticosus = shrubby
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Medicinal plant
No edibility data

General: ascending or erect, more or less branched shrub or subshrub mostly 15-40 cm tall, evidently glandular-hairy among the flowers, otherwise essentially hairless, or the stems of the season often finely short-hairy.

Leaves: opposite, elliptic, the larger crowded toward the base of the season's growth and on short, sterile shoots, short-stalked, the entire or toothed blade up to 6 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, 2-10 times as long as wide. Flowering shoots with reduced and less crowded leaves.

Flowers: stalked, in pairs in short, few-flowered clusters. Calyx 7-15 mm long, densely glandular-hairy, the lobes lanceolate to lance-ovate, pointed. Corolla blue-lavender to light purplish, 30-50 mm long and about 1 cm wide at the mouth, keeled on the back, hairless outside, long white-hairy near the base of the lower lip within. Anthers densely long-woolly, the pollen sacs opening all the way and becoming spread straight out. Staminode slender, shorter than the fertile filaments, long-bearded toward the tip. May-August.

Fruits: capsules, 8-12 mm long. Seeds irregularly compressed-prismatic, narrowly wing-edged, 1-2 mm long.


Rocky, open or wooded places from the foothills to rather high elevations in the mountains, in w. and s.c. parts of MT. Also from s. B.C. to c. OR and WY.
Medicinal Uses

Shrubby penstemon was used for medicinal purposes by several native tribes. The Iroquois used a compound decoction as a wash by women who were bothered by milk flow. The Okanagan-Colville Indians made a tea of plant tops taken for flu, colds, headaches and internal disorders. They also used it for sore and itchy scalp and to bathe the skin for acne and pimples. Raw roots were placed on the tooth for severe toothaches. The Thompson Indians used the whole plant to make bathing water for rheumatism. A decoction of the plant was made as a wash for arthritis or as a bath for any kind of aches and sores. A decoction of leaves was used as an eyewash for sore, red eyes. They made a decoction of plant taken for ulcers and "to clean you out the stomach.", and a decoction of stems, flowers and leaves was taken for kidney trouble and sore back. The Okanagan-Colville Indians made a decoction of stems, flowers and leaves used as a wash for inflamed eyes and for kidney troubles and sore back.

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