Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea

Some pictures from my wildflower meadow at home.  I just love these things.  All were started by scattering seed over an area where the existing turf was eliminated using an old pool cover for a season, removed, then raked and seeded.  That may not be the best way to eliminate turf, I've recently learned, because it interferes in the water and air interaction with the soil.  (Here's a better way).  Nevertheless, it appeals to my lazy, but patient demeanor, as a way of naturalizing areas, without using herbicides unnecessarily.  I now only mow the area once a year - in early March.

The original seed came included in the Northeastern Wildflower mix from Wildseed Farms, which was the same source of seed for our meadow in the wildlife demonstration area at the Horticulture Center.

From their description:

One of the loveliest, most important plant species that has been introduced from Europe and naturalized in various parts of North America. The flowers are numerous, on a spike, and range from a deep purple to lilac with conspicuous spots interlining the throat of the tubular flower. As a biennial, the leaves form a rosette the first year followed by the flower spike the next year. Prefers a nitrogen-rich sandy loam soil, in partial sun to full shade.

They also show up on Extension lists of deer resistant plants, plants poisonous to livestock, and herb and medicinal fact sheets:

There are several varieties of ornamental foxglove available, differing in size and flower color. The primary value of foxglove, however, is as a source of the medicinally important glycosides found in the plant. Digitalis, a cardiovascular drug extracted from the leaves, is the most effective drug available for heart failure caused by hypertension or arteriosclerosis. It is also used medicinally as a heart regulator, a diuretic, and an expectorant. Digoxin and lanatoside C from foxglove are effective in the correction of arrhythmias. Folk remedies use foxglove as a cardiac tonic and in the treatment of circulatory failures. The cardenolides slow and strengthen the heart beat.
Digitalis is poisonous, and symptoms include vomiting, headache, irregular heartbeat, and convulsions. Overdoses can be fatal.
So, even though classified as an herb for its usefulness as a medicine, enjoy it for its effect on your sense of sight, not taste.

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