Hairy Penstemon blooms at a time when there is a dearth of nectar for pollinators. When the spring bloomers are drying out and the mid-summer bloomers are yet to begin, Hairy Penstemon comes to save the day. The flowers produce an abundant amount of nectar and are visited by a wide variety of butterflies, moths, and bees. Moths seem to prefer the white flowers, likely due to their increased visibility at night.
Hairy Penstemon flowers evolved alongside pollinators resulting in a shape that encourages their pollination. The bottom lip acts as a landing pad and the bee is enticed further into the tube by bright purple streaks that line the tunnel. The bee is rewarded with nectar. In return, the narrow tunnel formed by the fused petals forces the bee to brush against the pollen. The pollen sticks to the bee until it arrives at the next flower, where it squeezes through the tube once again, brushes up again the flower’s reproductive parts, effectively pollinating the next flower, and is rewarded with nectar once again.
Hairy Penstemon is the host plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton), a butterfly that is common throughout Wisconsin. A high sugar concentration in the nectar ensures that monarchs will visit often! Learn more about how to attract monarch to your yard.
You may also see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visiting the flowers at a time when their main source of nectar, Wild Columbine flowers, begins to fade.