February 1, 2023
Digitalis Foxglove

Digitalis or Foxglove

Digitalis is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials and biennials. Foxgloves are very popular in British gardening, they are tall and add a lot of color and height to borders. Foxglove is part of the Plantaginaceae family of plants though it was previously classified in the Scrophulariaceae and the Veronicaceae families. This genus is native to Europe.

Digitalis is from the Latin word “Digitus” meaning finger. It was first named in 1542 in De historia stirpium commentarii insignes, by Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566). He was a German botanist and founded one of the first German botanical gardens. The flower Fuchsia is named after him. Fuchs in German means Fox.

Foxgloves in Hyde Park in London.

The common Foxglove is Digitalis purpurea but there are many other species and hybrids. Digitalis purpurea or Common Foxglove is the most popular and well-known species grown in gardens. It grows to about 2m or 6ft. Foxglove or Digitalis comes in shades of pink and purple and pure white. The flowers have spots on them.

How to grow Foxglove or Digitalis purpurea:

Digitalis purpurea is a biennial and thrives in acidic soil. Plant Foxglove in rich, moist soil, but well-drained, as it does not like soggy soil. Grow it in the sun or partial shade. Foxglove can be planted any time of the year. They self-seed but you might need to think the plants next season, and they will flower the year after. Foxglove is generally disease-free, but watch out for powdery mildew especially in hot and humid climates.

Digitalis purpurea, Common Foxglove

Foxglove is grown commercially for medications. Digitalis is also the name used in pharmaceuticals for substances extracted from this plant and used in medicine. Other names for this medicinal extract are cardiac glycosides and digoxin, used for a variety of heart conditions.

Due to these chemicals, the plant is toxic, the whole plant including its roots and seeds due to this they have also named it Dead Man’s Bells and Witch’s Gloves. Though they are beautiful in the gardens keep your children away from them.

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