Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Penstemon ambiguus, Gilia Beardtongue

Gilia Beardtongue has showy flowers, pink or whitish-pink that bloom from May to October. Penstemon ambiguousGilia Beardtongue is a subshrub that grows up to 3 feet tall and prefers open sandy mesas and grassland. The photos were taken at Monument Valley, Arizona. Penstemon ambiguousGilia Beardtongue is a native perennial in the Snapdragon Family. It is one species in a genus that has 250 species in North America. Penstemon ambiguousGilia Beardtongue has 2 distinct varieties; both grow at elevations between 4,500 and 6,500 feet in the United States and northern Mexico. Penstemon ambiguous

Scientific Name: Penstemon ambiguus
Common Name: Gilia Beardtongue
Also Called: Bush Penstemon, Gilia Penstemon, Pink Plains Beardtongue, Pink Plains Penstemon, Sand Beardtongue, Sand Penstemon
Family: Scrophulariaceae, Figwort or Snapdragon Family - Moving to Plantaginaceae
Synonyms: ()
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 3 feet tall.
Growth Form: Forb/herb, subshrub; plants mounded in profile, multiple fine stems, bases woody.
Leaves: Green; opposite, very narrow, thread-like.
Flower Color: Pink or whitish-pink; flowers about 1 inch, tubular or salverform, faces flat or pansy-like.
Flowering Season: May to October.
Elevation: 4,500 to 6,500 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Open sandy mesas and grasslands, common in the Painted Desert.

Recorded Range: Penstemon ambiguus is found in the southwestern United States and in CO, KS, OK, WY; AZ, NM, NV, TX, UT. It also occurs Chihuahua, Mexico. In Arizona it is found in Coconino County and the northeastern part of the state in Apache and Navajo counties.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Penstemon ambiguus.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available. Genus Information: In North America there are 250 species and 393 accepted taxa overall for Penstemon. World wide, The Plant List includes 301 accepted species names and includes a further 188 infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States, Arizona there are 43 species of Penstemon, in California there are 55 species, Nevada has 50 species, New Mexico has 47 species, Texas has 24 species, Utah has 73 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

There are 2 varieties in Penstemon ambiguus;
Penstemon ambiguus var. ambiguus, Gilia Beardtongue, (CO, KS, NM, OK, TX);
Penstemon ambiguus var. laevissimus, Pink Plains Beardtongue (AZ, CO, NM, NV, UT, WY, TX).

Comments: The plants in the photos above were taken June 17, in northeast Arizona at Monument Valley, Arizona. The variety in Arizona is "laevissimus" which has leaves that are more glabrous than the typical plant which has puberulent herbage.

Penstemon ambiguus has been used to indicate when watermelon planting was over and for other purposes by South American indigenous peoples.
Hopi Other, Ceremonial Items, Plant, associated with east direction, used in the Po-wa-mu ceremony.
Hopi Other, Season Indicator, Flowers used to indicate when watermelon planting was over.
Keres, Western Drug, Emetic, Infusion of plant used as an emetic.
Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Dermatological Aid, Plant used for solpugid bites or poultice of plant applied to eagle bites.
Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Disinfectant, Plant used as a fumigant for livestock with snakebites.
Tewa Other, Ceremonial Items, Plant, associated with east direction, used in the Po-wa-mu ceremony
Tewa Other, Season Indicator, Flowers used to indicate when watermelon planting was over.
See ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 08/18/2016, updated format 10/03/2017
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 08/17/2016)
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/17/2016).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 08/17/2016]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information 08/17/2016).