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Useful Temperate Plants

Digitalis purpurea

L.

Scrophulariaceae


The Temperate Database is in the process of being updated, with new records being added and old ones being checked and brought up to date where necessary. This record has not yet been checked and updated.

+ Synonyms

Common Name: Foxglove

No Image.

General Information

Digitalis purpurea is a Biennial up to 1.20 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials..

Known Hazards

All parts of the plant are highly poisonous[
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
,
10
Title
Poisonous Plants and Animals.
Publication
 
Author
Altmann. H.
Publisher
Chatto and Windus
Year
1980
ISBN
0-7011-2526-8
Description
A small book, reasonable but not very detailed.
,
19
Title
Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Stary. F.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1983
ISBN
0-600-35666-3
Description
Not very comprehensive, but easy reading.
,
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
,
76
Title
Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man.
Publication
 
Author
Cooper. M. and Johnson. A.
Publisher
HMSO
Year
1984
ISBN
0112425291
Description
Concentrates mainly on the effects of poisonous plants to livestock.
,
222
Title
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Foster. S. & Duke. J. A.
Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Year
1990
ISBN
0395467225
Description
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
].
Although it is a very effective medicinal plant, foxglove needs to be used with great caution due to the presence of several potentially toxic compounds, including digitalin, digitoxin, digitonin and digitalein. In excess it can cause cardiovascular, neurological and digestive problems, hallucinations, photosensitivity and exophthalmia[
1314
Title
Toxic effect of some medicinal plants used in Moroccan traditional medicine
Publication
Moroccan J. Biol. 2-3 (2006) 21-30
Author
Mohamed Bnouham; Fatima Zahra Merhfour; Mostafa Elachoui; Ab
Publisher
 
Year
2006
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

Botanical References

17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Western Europe, including Britain, from Norway to Spain and Sardinia.

Habitat

Acid soils in woods, heaths, mountain grasslands etc[
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
,
17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
].

Properties

Medicinal Rating *  *  *  *
HabitBiennial
Height1.20 m
PollinatorsBees
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Easily grown in ordinary garden soil, especially if it is rich in organic matter[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Prefers a light dry soil in semi-shade[
17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
] but succeeds in full sun if the soil is moist[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Grows well in acid soils[
17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
].
Plants are hardy to about -25°c[
187
Title
Perennials. Volumes 1 and 2.
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Rix. M.
Publisher
Pan Books
Year
1991
ISBN
0-330-30936-9
Description
Photographs of over 3,000 species and cultivars of ornamental plants together with brief cultivation notes, details of habitat etc.
].
The foxglove is a very ornamental plant that is easily naturalized in the semi-shade of a woodland[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. It contains glycosides and forms the basis of an important heart medicine for which it is cultivated commercially[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. This species is commonly used by herbalists, whereas D. lanata is more commonly grown for supplying the pharmaceutical industry[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The plant contains much greater concentrations of the medically active ingredients when it is grown in a sunny position[
115
Title
The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Publication
 
Author
Johnson. C. P.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
].
The flowers are very attractive to bees[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
24
Title
Making a Wildlife Garden.
Publication
 
Author
Baines. C.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly good with lots of ideas about creating wildlife areas in the garden.
]. Individual plants can produce up to 2 million seeds[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].
A good companion plant, it stimulates the growth of nearby plants, growing well with pine trees[
18
Title
Companion Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B.
Publisher
Watkins
Year
1979
ISBN
-
Description
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
,
20
Title
Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Publication
 
Author
Riotte. L.
Publisher
Garden Way, Vermont, USA.
Year
1978
ISBN
0-88266-064-0
Description
Fairly good.
,
54
Title
How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Publication
 
Author
Hatfield. A. W.
Publisher
Frederick Muller Ltd
Year
1977
ISBN
0-584-10141-4
Description
Interesting reading.
].

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

The foxglove is a widely used herbal medicine with a recognised stimulatory effect upon the heart. It is also used in allopathic medicine in the treatment of heart complaints. It has a profound tonic effect upon a diseased heart, enabling the heart to beat more slowly, powerfully and regularly without requiring more oxygen[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
]. At the same time it stimulates the flow of urine which lowers the volume of the blood and lessens the load on the heart[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
].
The plant contains cardiac glycosides (including digoxin, digitoxin and lanatosides).
Digitoxin rapidly strengthens the heartbeat but is excreted very slowly. Digoxin is therefore preferred as a long-term medication[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
].

The leaves are cardiac, diuretic, stimulant and tonic[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
,
21
Title
The Herb Book.
Publication
 
Author
Lust. J.
Publisher
Bantam books
Year
1983
ISBN
0-553-23827-2
Description
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
171
Title
Economic Botany.
Publication
 
Author
Hill. A. F.
Publisher
The Maple Press
Year
1952
ISBN
-
Description
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some detail about the plants it does cover.
]. In addition to their effect upon the heart, the leaves also have a very beneficial effect on the kidneys - they are strongly diuretic and are used with benefit in the treatment of dropsy[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].
The leaves should only be harvested from plants in their second year of growth, picked when the flowering spike has grown and about two thirds of the flowers have opened[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. Harvested at other times, there is less of the medically active alkaloid present[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].
Great care should be exercised in the use of this plant, the therapeutic dose is very close to the lethal dose[
222
Title
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Foster. S. & Duke. J. A.
Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Year
1990
ISBN
0395467225
Description
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
]. See also the notes above on toxicity.

The seed has also been used medicinally in the past[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].

A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves[
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
]. It is used in the treatment of cardiac disorders[
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
].

Other Uses

An infusion of the plant prolongs the life of cut flowers[
54
Title
How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Publication
 
Author
Hatfield. A. W.
Publisher
Frederick Muller Ltd
Year
1977
ISBN
0-584-10141-4
Description
Interesting reading.
]. Root crops growing near this plant store better[
54
Title
How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Publication
 
Author
Hatfield. A. W.
Publisher
Frederick Muller Ltd
Year
1977
ISBN
0-584-10141-4
Description
Interesting reading.
].
An apple-green dye is obtained from the flowers[
168
Title
Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Grae. I.
Publisher
MacMillan Publishing Co. New York.
Year
1974
ISBN
0-02-544950-8
Description
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
].

Propagation

Seed - surface sow early spring in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 20°c[
175
Title
Focus on Plants. Volume 5. (formerly 'Growing from seed')
Publication
 
Author
Bird. R. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1991
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. A good article on Corydalis spp.
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.
If you have sufficient seed it can be sown outdoors in situ in the spring or autumn.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2019-09-16. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Digitalis+purpurea>

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