ORRIN MORRIS: Rockdale a unique home to gray beard-tongue, found mostly in north Georgia

GRAY BEARD-TONGUE Penstemon canescens

GRAY BEARD-TONGUE Penstemon canescens

I began writing about wildflowers 15 years ago. I had already identified about 60 different wildflowers within half a mile of my house in northern Rockdale County. By June of that year I had discovered so many other species that I knew I’d have no problem completing a year for the weekly newspaper columns.

As of this writing, I have drawn and documented over 320 wildflowers. That number is probably half of all that are present in our area.

The verse used originally when this wildflower was first featured reads, “Let the whole Earth be filled with His glory … ” (Psalm 72:19). About the time I think I have covered the full range of wildflowers, I find that there are so many more to study. Indeed, God has filled the Earth with beauty that reflects His glory.



Penstemon canescens

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this wildflower has been officially identified in only nine counties of Georgia. Eight of those are clustered in the mountains along the Tennessee and Carolina borders. Rockdale is the other unique host to the gray beard-tongue.

Beard-tongue is a member of the snapdragon family. It can be spotted along the rocky roadsides, passing through a woody area or against a thicket. It can be found in the shallow soil around our granite outcroppings. There are usually two or three plants together, but don’t expect to see a small patch or a large blanket of beard-tongue.

The stem is 1 to 2 feet tall. At the top is a loose cluster of snapdragon-like flowers about 1 inch long. Those I’ve seen are pinkish with darker violet lines inside the throat, or corolla. As the bud opens into a flower, two “lips” form. The upper lobe is two-part and curves upward. The lower lobe is three-part and juts forward. The blooming season ranges from April through July.

The stamens protrude to the front of the “mouth.” They are compact and have the appearance of a tongue. These stamens are quite hairy, explaining why “beard” was added to the name.

The leaves differ depending on location. Those at the base have stalks and measure 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long. The upper leaves are opposites with no stalks and are heart-shaped where they cling to the stem, as illustrated.

Finally, note how the stalk, or pedicel, of each blossom emerges where the leaf clasps the stem.

God has filled the Earth with beauty that reflects His glory. Indeed, the whole earth is filled with the glory of God’s creation.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.