Digitalis Purpurea AKA foxglove, finger flower, ladies finger's or fairyglove.
Despite its beautiful appearance and its appeal to hummingbirds and bees, foxglove has another feature that gardeners must acknowledge before including it in their garden plans: every part of the plant is highly toxic. There have been reports of people being poisoned by simply inhaling the spores exuded by the seed pods that form in the fall. So dangerous is the plant when consumed or through inhalation that it has become known by a few other names such as Dead Man’s Bells and Witch’s Gloves. For the gardener who has small children or pets that may wander through the garden, impulsively placing little fingers or little noses into the thimble sized blooms, growing foxglove plants may not be the best idea. The leaves are particularly toxic, proving to be potentially life threatening if simply chewed upon. It should not be overlooked, however, that the entire plant is poisonous, including the roots.
The toxin that makes foxglove poisonous to humans is an extremely beneficial substance in the hands of medical professionals, however. It began being utilized by herbalists and in folk medicines long ago, but became a discontinued practice because of the drug’s volatile nature. Later, trained researchers and scientists correctly realized the properties of the drug and how to apply it toward improving health conditions. An extract of digitalis purpurea is used to create medicines that are highly useful in treating heart conditions. It can be very successful in controlling the heart rate and to increase the ability of the heart to contract. The medicines produced by foxglove are called digitalin. Overdosing on the digitalis can also prove to be harmful; causing conditions such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice and blurred vision.
When the full properties of the foxglove plant are fully understood and accommodated by the gardener, foxglove can be a beautiful addition to the garden. Despite its toxic attributes, it can certainly be a striking display of colorful blooms in the garden. www.gardeningcentral.org/