Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)


Foxglove growing along Wildcat creek
Foxglove growing along Wildcat creek

One of the most beautiful plants of early summer is also one of the ones that you need to keep children and animals from eating.  Due to the presence of the cardiac glycoside digitoxin, the leaves, flowers and seeds of this plant are all poisonous to humans and some animals and can be fatal if eaten.  Extracted from the leaves, this same compound, whose clinical use was pioneered as digitalis by William Withering, is used as a medication for heart failure. He recognized it “reduced dropsy”, increased urine flow and had a powerful effect on the heart. Unlike the purified pharmacological forms, extracts of this plant did not frequently cause intoxication because they induced nausea and vomiting within minutes of ingestion, preventing the patient from consuming more.

two different wild color variations.  Purple is the most common color but there are some light purple to white that show up
two different wild color variations. Purple is the most common color but there are some light purple to white that show up.

Since children tend to put things into their mouth without any restraint it is not something I can grow.  Which is unfortunate since it is a beautiful plant.  It is a low water plant making it a good one to keep in a garden if you are working on making a low water garden.  Foxglove is a biennial plant so it only produces a leafy rosette the first year and flowers in the second year (carrots are the same way).

the flowers are almost the perfect size to fit fingers into like organic thimbuls
The flowers are almost the perfect size to fit fingers into like organic thimbles.

 

Foxglove species thrive in acidic soils, in partial sunlight to deep shade, in a range of habitats, including open woods, woodland clearings, moorland and heath margins, sea-cliffs, rocky mountain slopes and hedge banks.  It is commonly found on sites where the ground has been disturbed, such as recently cleared woodland, or where the vegetation has been burnt.

 

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