White Beardtongue, Smooth Blue Beardtongue
Beardtongue flowers are tubular, and have two lips with the top lip divided into two lobes, and the bottom into three lobes. Many species have a sterile stamen that is covered with hair, hence the common name. Smooth blue beardtongue (P. nitidus) is a showy plant with thick leaves covered with a greyish bloom, and flowers that occur in dense clusters at the leaf axils on the top portion of the stem. Each blossom, up to 20 mm long, is sky blue with a purplish base. The flowers of white beardtongue are larger, up to 25 mm long, and are covered with sticky hairs, but each cluster has fewer blossoms than blue beardtongue.
The Blackfeet called beardtongue “tastes-like-fire”, and made a tea from it to treat stomach aches and cramps, and to stop vomiting. (Hungry Wolf 17) Wilkinson reports that the Navajo people, in Arizona, treated rattlesnake bite with the pounded wet leaves of some beardtongue species. (223)
Growth habit and range: This plant is an erect, herbaceous perennial which is common on flats and hillsides in the southern third of the province. Blue beardtongue may be branched and grows to a height of up to 30 cm.
Description: The leaves are smooth, oval, fleshy, grey-green in colour and opposite on the stems. A waxy ‘bloom’ covers the leaf surfaces. The lowermost leaves are largest at 10 cm in length. The flowers appear in May and June and are held in dense clusters in the axils of the upper leaves. Each blossom is 20 mm in length, and tubular, with a purple base and blue distal end which flares to 5 shallow, rounded lobes. The fruit is a rounded, inflated capsule up to 14 mm in length which contains the many wrinkled brown seeds, which each measure up to 4 mm in length.
Hungry Wolf, Adolf. 1989. Teachings of Nature. Good Medicine Books, BC.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.