Foxglove bears 2-5 foot tall spikes of tubular flowers. Colors include pink, red, purple, white, and yellow. The flower throats are often speckled.
Botanical Name: Digitalis; Digitalis purpurea is the most well-known variety.
Common/Folk Names: Bloody Fingers, Dead Men’s Bells, Cottagers, Cow-flop, Fairy Caps, Fairy Petticoats, Fairy Thimbles, Fairy Fingers, Fairy’s Glove, Fairy Weed, Folks Gloves, Fox Bells, Foxglove, Fox Mittens, Gloves of Our Lady, Goblin Gloves, Lion’s Mouth, Scotch Mercury, Throatwort, Virgin’s Glove, Witch’s Bells, Witch’s Gloves, and Witch’s Thimbles.
Life Cycle: biennial, but newer varieties are perennial
Habitat: full sun to partial shade to full shade, moist but not soggy soil; native to western and southwestern Europe, western and central Asia and northwestern Africa
Smell: leaves smell slightly bad, flowers have no discernible scent (Don’t smell it.)
Taste: spicy hot or bitter (Don’t taste it.)
- There are over 20 species of digitalis.
- The flowers attracts bees and hummingbirds.
- Foxglove leaves contain digitalis, a potent heart medicine. Digitalis contains digitoxin, digoxin, and other cardiac glycosides that affect the heart. Digitalis is poisonous. The upper leaves of the stem are more dangerous than the lower leaves. Foxglove is most toxic just before the seeds ripen.
- Wear gloves when working with foxglove.
- Van Gogh may have been treated for epilepsy with foxglove, a common practice of the time.
- People who received large and repeated doses of digitalis often saw the world with a yellow-green tint. They frequently complained of seeing yellow spots surrounded by coronas.
- Foxglove was used to treat heart and kidney problems, dropsy (edema), and aconite (wolfsbane) poisoning. Don’t try it.
- It was used as a salve to treat abscesses, boils, wounds, and to cure ulcers. Don’t try it.
- It was also taken to treat headaches, paralysis, and stomach ulcers. Don’t try it.
- Foxglove tea was used to treat coughs, colds, and fevers–even after the plant was known to be fatal. Don’t try it.
- Foxglove leaves were placed in children’s shoes to prevent Scarlet Fever.
- In Wales, a black dye was made from the leaves. Lines and crosses were painted on the stone cottage floors to keep witches away. Another version is that is was purely decorative as it gave the floor a mosaic look.
- Foxglove attracts fairies. Fairies supposedly play inside the flowers. The speckles denotes where a fairy has touched the surface of the flower.
- Elves like foxglove too.
“…for as to the elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells…” –Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Grown in front of the house, foxglove protects the occupants from evil influences.
- Picking foxglove from the garden and bringing it inside will anger fairies.
- Placing a piece of the flower inside a charm will give protection from dark forces with the “light of the fairy.”
- The juice/dew of foxgloves placed in a ritual circle will allow one to communicate with fairies.
- The stems will lean over when supernatural beings are present.
- In Roman mythology, Flora showed Juno how to impregnate herself by touching a foxglove to her belly and her breasts.
- Foxglove is associated with witches and witchcraft, and it is grown in a witch’s garden.
- Spells and rituals use foxglove in baneful magic (harmful magic), divination, and protection.
“It can raise the dead and it can kill the living.” –old saying
In the Language of Flowers, it means: insincerity
This is a reference for fiction writers and should not be taken as medical or spiritual advice.
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
Folklore and Symbolism of Flower, Plants and Trees by Ernst and Johanna Lehner
Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions by Gabrielle Hatfield
image by Anneli Salo, Wikipedia.org
series logo image by openclipart.org, awesome colorization by me!