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Foxglove

Digitalis purpurea

  • Name also: Purple Foxglove, Lady’s Glove, Common Foxglove
  • Family: Plantain Family – Plantaginaceae
    (formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
  • Growing form: Biennial herb.
  • Height: 0.5–1.5 mm (1.6–3 feet.). Stem unbranched.
  • Flower: Corolla campanulate (bell-shaped) or funnel-shaped, slightly zygomorphic, purple or red, sometimes white or light yellow, usually dotted inside, 4–5 cm (16–20 in.) long, fused, very shallowly 4-lobed, nodding. Calyx 5-lobed. Stamens 4, of which 2 long and 2 short. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a long, abundant one-sided terminal raceme.
  • Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked at base, becoming shorter-stalked towards the top. Blade elliptic–narrowly elliptic–ovate, with rounded teeth (crenate), densely tomentose underneath.
  • Fruit: Ovate capsule.
  • Habitat: Stony hillsides, forest margins, roadsides, wasteland and gardens. Ornamental, left over from old gardens and an escape.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Foxglove is a popular ornamental in yards and gardens and it grows as an escape in the south of Finland. It is mainly left over from old gardens in manor houses and farmhouses, and it only rarely spreads far from its original planting site. Foxglove favours damp sea air, but in Finland it hasn’t really been able to establish itself in its typical habitat. The species grows ferally in Sweden, which is the closest feral habitat to Finland.

The aerial parts of foxglove are highly poisonous. It is claimed that the plant has the most powerful effect on the heart and is highly poisonous even in small doses, even causing death by fatal ventricular fibrillations. On the other hand the digitalis glycosides that the plant contains are medicinal: leaves collected during the plant’s flowering time are still used as an ingredient in preparations used to treat an underfunctioning heart.

Foxglove’s corolla is usually red or purple, sometimes white. On the Åland Islands in the south-west of Finland foxglove is quite established, as is a yellow-flowered variety big-flowered foxglove (D. grandiflora). It grows ferally already close by in the Baltic countries as far north as Riga and Saarenmaa. In Finland it is grown as an ornamental and it has also jumped the fence out of the flower bed and into the wild.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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