The tall and stately rows of common Foxglove, a handsome plant once native to western Europe, have naturalized all over the world, even to New Zealand where they appear much at home and are considered a “noxious weed”. Their leaves contain digitalin, an ingredient vital in the treatment of cardiac patients, a discovery made in 1785 by an English physician, William Withering.
Digitalis purpurea, (digitus: latin for finger) is the most common of thirty species of Foxgloves, with finger shaped bells in lavender and other pastel colors, descending along one side of a stout stem that can reach as high as 8 feet. The bells are remarkably spotted inside to lure pollinators to their nectar.
The leaves are hairy, alternate, large at ground level and graduated in size up the stem. They vary in their efficacy for medicinal purposes depending on the season. After flowering, the main stem can be cut and side shoots will result in more blooms. Foxgloves thrive in shade and rich soil.
||Does very well in partial sun to full shade and prefers a nitrogen-rich sandy loam soil
||Shaded areas, mixed with wildflowers, flowers can be used in floral arrangements, but heed the warning below
||Digitalis are highly toxic and care should be taken when growing near children and pets
Doctors use digitalis to stengthen the heart and regulate its beat
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Docents Joanne Taylor and Kathy McNeil
Profile Contributor: David Kruse-Pickler, Associate Curator