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Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus var. laevissimus)
Shrubs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)

General: Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus var. laevissimus) is a subshrub or perennial forb with a woody base and upright stems to about 3-feet tall and 3-feet wide. The leaves are thread-like, bright green, and most fall off during winter. During summer, the top of the plant is covered with pinkish-white, flat-faced flowers. The flower are bilaterally symmetrical with 5 lobes (2 upper lobes, 3 lower lobes), and the upper lobes are folded back onto the flower tube.

Gilia Beardtongue is a fairly common to dominant component of desert vegetation communities on dry, well-drained sandy sites in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zone and on desert flats and in canyon-and-mesa country. Around Las Vegas, look for this species at Valley of Fire, around Zion National Park, and places eastward where it can be quite common.

Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)

Family: Figwort (Scrophulariaceae). Recent genetic research suggests that Penstemon should be included in the Plantaginaceae.

Other Names: bush penstemon, Leiostemon ambiguus

Plant Form: Shrubby perennial with upright, branching stems and lacy leaves.

Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)

Height: To about 3 feet.

Stems: Highly branched, smooth (rough in P. a. var. ambiguus), woody to well above the base.

Leaves: Opposite, simple, and linear; to about 1-1/4 inches long, leaf edges generally smooth (rough in P. a. var. ambiguus).

Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)

Flowers: Blooms late spring and early summer. Numerous narrow inflorescences with many flower each; 1-2 flowers per peduncle. Flower bilaterally symmetrical; 5 lobes (upper lip with 2-lobes, lower lip with 3); upper lobe reflexed (folded back) at an oblique angle to the flower tube; petals white with pink and purple. Flower tube bearded with short hairs.


Habitat: Sandy, unstable, well-drained soils in plains country, canyon and mesa country, and other hilly areas.

Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)

Elevation: About 4,500 to 6,000 feet.

Distribution: The species occurs from Nevada (Clark County) to Colorado, Nebraska, and Texas, south into Mexico. The subspecies P. a. laevissimus occurs in southern and western portions of the range.


Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus) Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)
Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus) Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
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