Foxglove

October 2, 2015

Foxglove

October 2, 2015

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Foxglove (Digitalis purpuea) -  220/365

Foxglove, genus name Digitalis, is native to Europe, Asia, Africa. It's Latin name, Digitalis, means "finger-like" and refers to the ease with which the flower can be fitted over a human fingertip.  The most common species, Digitalis purpuea, is mainly used as an ornamental plant due to it's vivid-colored flowers. It can grow 1-18 feet high.

"It can raise the dead and kill the living."

Digitalis is an extremely toxic plant that also has medicinal uses for its extract digitalin, to treat various cardiac conditions. In the 1700's it was discovered that its use increased cardiac contractions and helped control irregular heart rate and atrial fibrillation. In 1998 it was approved by the FDA, and still used today for patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Despite its approval, it is becoming less used due to safety concerns proposing a link between digoxin therapy and increased mortality in women. Digitalis was also used to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

The entire plant is toxic, including roots and seeds. Fatality is rare, but possible. Deaths from Digitalis mostly occurs in children under six who accidentally ingest it, but occasionally in adults who intentionally ingest it. Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, delirium, headaches, irregular heart beat, tremors and various cerebral and visual disturbances, especially in color vision. The effects can also included blurry vision and seeing a "halo" around each point of light.  It is said that Vincent van Gogh's yellow period may have been influenced by digitalis therapy, which at the time was thought to control seizures.

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Despite its toxicity, the plant is extraordinarily beautiful and is popular with hummingbirds and bees.

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Foxglove is Fairy Folk's Glove - 222/365

Foxglove has long been associate with myths and legend. It's not clear where its common name, Foxglove, comes from but it is thought to be derived from "folks' glove" where the term "folk" refers to fairy.  Parents would tell their children that picking foxglove offends the fairy, which cautions them away from the poisonous plant. The small dark dots inside the bells of the foxglove were believed to be where the fairies had pressed their fingers to leave a warning regarding the toxicity of the plant. Scandinavian legend say that faeries taught foxes to ring foxglove bells to warn each other of approaching hunters. While other Scandinavian legends say that the naughty fairies taught the foxes to wear the foxgloves on their feet so they could walk softly to raid the chicken coup.

In Roman mythology, Flora, the goodess of flowers, lightly touched the goddess Juno on the belly and breasts with a foxglove and Juno conceived, giving birth to the god Mars.

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None of the flower's I've posted this year are in our current landscape.  As of this moment, our landscape is still dirt.  All the flowers I've been photographing this year are either wild flowers found on my dog walks in Santa Cruz mountains or ornamental hedges, plants and flowers found in gardens. Some of the flowers I've shot will be definitely planned into our landscape and I'm looking forward to when our garden will be planted. This particular flower, the Foxglove, as beautiful as it is, is much too poisonous for me to risk planting as they are poisonous to dogs as well as humans.  I would consider them if I didn't have any animals. Some of the websites have cautioned handling them without gloves, as the entire plant is poisonous. I wish I knew that when I was shooting them as I had my hands all over them!

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One comment on “Foxglove”

  1. Well sheesh that's kind of scary! Maybe that's why they have glove in the name because you should only handle them with gloves lol. I hope you are okay after handling them!

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