Digitalis lutea (eriostachya)
Digitalis lutea is a dainty, shortish perennial foxglove with spires crowded down one side with tiny bells of soft creamy primrose. Much overlooked by the seed merchants who hail the biggest blousiest and downright deformed. This is a plant that cottage gardens were made for and has special memories for me as it was at home in my late Mum’s pretty flower garden. It stands 60cm high and flowers continuously from June to August. Evergreen and mostly perennial. One of the parents of Digitalis ‘Glory of Roundway’. S.Europe and N. Africa.
Foxgloves – Digitalis
Foxgloves fall into two groups, the biennial and the perennial. Biennial foxgloves produce a dense rosette of leaves in the first year which then throw one or more flowering spikes in the second year. This exhausts the plant which then usually (but not always) dies. perennial foxgloves go on to produce flowers year upon year. Digitalis purpurea belongs to the biennial group.
Foxgloves flower in succession up the flowering spike. the spikes are at their very best in late June, but continue for many weeks after that. The flowers, which last about 6 days each, are a favourite of bees. Other insects often shelter in the bells overnight or during bad weather.
We now derived medicines from the foxglove are stalwarts for treating heart conditions, though these properties took herbalists a long time to work out. They were previously recommended for condition where its use today would be considered highly suspect.
The common foxgove has a wide distribution. You find it especially in woods and along country lanes. It flourishes best on silicaceous soils, well aerated and with light shade, and thrives in loam. Despite this it needs very little soil to grow, often springing up in the cracks in granite walls. It grows throughout Europe, but is absent most notably on some calcareous (chalky) districts. The naturalist William Turner (1548) noted that it grows freely around rabbit holes.
Digitalis purpurea ‘Pam’s Choice’ (Foxglove, Witches’ Gloves, Dead Men’s Bells, Fairy’s Glove, Gloves of Our Lady, Bloody Fingers, Virgin’s Glove, Fairy Caps, Folk’s Glove, Fairy Thimbles, Cowflops). the name Foxglove is a corruption of folk’s glove or glove of the good folk (Fairies), and seems to have been round a long time, the earliest mention being the Anglo Saxon name ‘foxes glofa’ – (glove of the fox). The spots are sometimes seen as the markes left by elven fingers, possibly to act as a warning of the plants poisons. The Norwegian’s also alude to the fox in their name ‘Revbielde (Foxbell).