Oct 5, 2009

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea

A native of woodlands, the foxglove thrives in a damp, partially shaded spot. This stately plant look good grown under tall trees or to give height at the back of the border. Foxgloves have broad, wrinkled leaves which form a basal rosette. The magenta bells are large and appear in June on tall, erect stems. The long spikes of flowers open from the bottom upwards. On the inside of the flower there are dark purple spots edged with white. These guide bees and other insects towards the nectar, deep inside the flower. Foxglove is a biennial, common on disturbed ground on banks, woodland clearings, sea-cliffs and heaths. It can be very abundant in recently cleared forestry plantations.

Foxgloves are an easy-going traditional cottage garden plant that will grow in full sun or shade and do well in most soils. They look particularly attractive when they are allowed to self seed and naturalise, creating drifts of tall flowering spikes and are very attractive to bees and some moths. This is the natural source of the drug digitalis, which is used to treat heart conditions.

Foxgloves (Digitalis) has been mostly used by herbalists for medicinal purposes. Despite the beauty of its colorful display however, blooms, roots, sap, flowers, seeds and leaves, are all poisonous even when dried and should be handled with 'gloves'! sml. Medicinally, digitalis has been used for strengthening the heart and regulating heart beat. They should not be grown in areas where pets or children can likely make contact.

Some of the most common garden flowers have fascinating histories and symbolic meanings. Flowers have been associated with symbolism for thousands of years. Flowers are a significant part of our lives from birth to death. Many popular garden flowers including foxglove, lupines, poppies, sunflowers, sweet peas, tulips and zinnias are associated with a treasure trove of stories and mythologies.

Foxglove flowers have both positive and negative symbolic meanings. They are said to sometimes hurt and sometimes heal. In the language of flowers, foxglove flowers are associated with insincerity. On the positive side, the common name is said to come from "folk's gloves," with "folk" referring to helpful fairy folk.

In medieval gardens dedicated to Mother Mary, foxglove was called "Our Lady's Gloves" or "Gloves of the Virgin." The scientific name is digitalis, a reference to the presence of powerful chemicals that can heal heart conditions if taken correctly but can kill if taken in large amounts.

Foxglove thrives in soils that are rich in iron and coal. New coalfields can sometimes be located by finding masses of foxgloves growing together. Foxgloves are perennials that thrive in temperate zones and like shade, part shade and sun.

Foxgloves come in white, yellow, pink, rose, red, lavender and purple. Foxglove can be grown either through seeds or divisions of plant clumps. The plants range from 2-6' high depending on the variety.

The flowers look best in the back of a garden and bloom in a pyramid shape with the lowest blossoms opening first and the buds remaining closed at the top.

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