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Digitalis purpurea

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

Photo Credit: Plants4Less

Native and widespread through Europe, this herbaceous biennial is a potential plant for rooftops with a deeper growing media depth. A semi-intensive or intensive green roof would serve the Foxglove's fibrous root system well. Growing anywhere from 2-5 feet tall, they tolerate full sun, but prove to be more comfortable with some shade present during the day. Drought intolerant, the Foxglove thrives in hardiness zones 4-8.

If you're planting this biennial for the first time, it must be replanted for the first two years. They will not produce flowers or seeds within the first year of growth. Although, the seeds do have the ability to remain dormant for several years until conditions are favorable for establishment. The tall spirals of long bell-shaped flowers may be worth the wait though. These showy purple flavored flowers present themselves in clusters and their nectar is especially enjoyed by hummingbirds and bees.

Unfortunately there is one shortfall, all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and some animals if ingested because of a toxin called cardiac glycoside digitoxin. But, if extracted from the plant at exactly the right dosage, the Digitalis toxin can have positive effects such as a change in heart rate, strengthen muscle contractions of the heart and increase blood output. This makes this wildflower a crucial ingredient in some heart medicines. There is a very fine line between helping the heart beat stronger and a potential fatal dose that would lead to cardiac arrest. 

In this case beauty exceeds danger; despite the poisonous potential of this plant, it is often spotted in gardens around the world.


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