FOXGLOVE

Digitalis purpurea

Plantain Family [Plantaginaceae]  
Formerly in: Figwort & Foxglove Family [Scrophulariaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8purple
inner
inner8white
morph
morph8zygo
petals
petalsZ1
type
typeZspiked
stem
stem8round
toxicity
toxicityZmedium

1st July 2005, Slopes of Birks Fell, Eskdale Green, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A grove of Foxglove amidst Bracken, a frequent occurrence on the lower slopes of acid moorland mountains. Foxglove appears to be the only plant that can happily co-exist amidst Bracken perhaps growing faster initially before the bracken hogs all the light.


27th June 2005, Walsden, Rochdale Canal, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD


7th June 2005, Sefton Coastal Path, Hightown. Photo: © RWD
Note there is only one flowering stem.


7th June 2005, Sefton Coastal Path, Hightown. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have spots inside them.


16th July 2005, Turton & Entwistle Reservoir, Strawbury Duck. Photo: © RWD
But if the young stalk is damaged, then many flowering stems can sprout.


22nd July 2008, Healey Dam, Lumbutts, Todmorden. Photo: © RWD
Foxglove can be either purple or white.


22nd July 2008, Healey Dam, Lumbutts, Todmorden. Photo: © RWD


Photo: © RWD
Flowers near the top open last. When shut they resemble mitts, hence Foxglove.


20th June 2013, Milnrow, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
A pink form is cream-coloured further up.


20th June 2013, Milnrow, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The sexual organs are well hidden [pink form]..


20th June 2013, Milnrow, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Magenta spots have a white halo around them where no colour can form (i.e. white is allowed). Beyond that a pink wash is allowed an existence. Note the long hairs.


5th Aug 2011, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
The whole length turned to fruit apart from the last to flower at the summit.


5th Aug 2011, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
The four sepals have turned a rich reddish-purple (possibly as a result of strong sunshine) contrasting with the unripe green fruits.


22nd July 2008, Healey Dam, Lumbutts, Todmorden. Photo: © RWD
The fruits still have the style atop. A different year and the sepals are green rather than red.


5th Aug 2011, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
The fruits still have the long stamen attached.


5th Aug 2011, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
Eventually the fruits ripen chestnut brown and split into four.


28th Sept 2008, Seathwaite Tarn, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The leaves form a basal rosette in the first year without flowering.



Not to be semantically confused with : Fox and Cubs [a flower belonging to a differing Family]

Hybridises with : Straw Foxglove (Digitalis lutea) to produce Digitalis × fucata.

Due to a recent taxonomical reassessment, Foxglove has now been placed in the Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae) instead of the 'Figwort and Foxglove' Family (Scrophulariaceae) it used to belong to. This seems strange, as its appearance is nothing like any other member of the Plantain Family. [The author can imagine that they will be changing their minds again later over this plant].

from a distance, a drift of Foxglove could be mistaken for one of Purple Loosestrife or Rosebay Willowherb

Uniquely identifiable characteristics.

Foxglove is biennial: in the first year just a large basal rosette of crinkled leaves form on the ground; in the second year a single flowering stalk rises bearing a spike of usually purple coloured tubular flowers. It then dies, but sheds seeds which repeat the process.

Foxglove was instrumental to the creation of modern day pharmacology. Because of the not infrequent deaths resulting from its use as a herbal treatment for dropsy (an aberrant accumulation of fluids in the tissues of the body) that William Withering, a biologist and botanist, investigated the medical properties of dried Foxglove leaves. He found that the constituents of Foxglove, whatever they were, exerted their effects on the heart, slowing the heart rate and strengthening the beat (a property that would be more gainfully employed in the treatment of heart failure), and that it was this action that was helping with the condition called dropsy. The heart beat, in being stronger, was stimulating the kidneys to clear the body and lungs of excess fluids. But the problem was that there was a very narrow window between the amount of leaves necessary to cure the patient and that which would kill him! Too much would stop the heart altogether. This is nowadays called a narrow therapeutic window, and it is preferable that drugs have as wide a therapeutic window as is possible. Carefully measured amounts were found to be necessary to effect a cure. It was this process whereby William led the way forward; from herbal medicine to pharmacology. Eventually the active principles in the leaves responsible for their effects on the heart were identified, isolated and purified to produce the modern drugs that we use today. William led the way in all this.

Foxglove is the County Flower of four counties in the UK: Argyll, Birmingham, Leicestershire and Monmouthshire.

The leaves and flowers contain the spiro-steroid, Digoxigenin, used in biotechnology and immunohistological diagnosis rather than as a drug. Digoxigenin resembles Convallotoxin, the digitalin-like poison found in Lily of the Valley.

CARDIAC GLYCOSIDES



Two cardiac glycoside heart drugs can be obtained from Foxglove plants: Digitoxin and Digoxin. These are not alkaloids, for they contain no nitrogen atoms. Both Digitoxin and Digoxin are based on the steroidal compound Digoxigenin, the molecule shown above, with the addition of glycosides. Both affect the rhythm and strength of the heart beat and are used as treatments for arrhythmias and heart failure. Although the effects of Digoxin are longer lasting than those of Digitoxin, the former is now rarely used as treatment.

Because Foxglove contains these toxic drugs, it is dangerous to ingest any part of the plant. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, visual disturbances, confusion, and heart arrhythmias. For serious cases of poisoning an antidote is available.

Several other similar cardiac glycosides are found in Foxglove, Gitalin, F-gitonin, Digitonin as well as the poisonous iridoid glucosides Lanatosides A-C.


  Digitalis purpurea  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Plantaginaceae  

Distribution
family8Plantain family8Plantaginaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8digitalis
Digitalis
(Foxgloves)

FOXGLOVE

Digitalis purpurea

Plantain Family [Plantaginaceae]  
Formerly in: Figwort & Foxglove Family [Scrophulariaceae]

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