Wildlife of the Month - Foxgloves
The dramatic towering form of bells, internally splattered with a curious pattern, makes these wildflowers the centre of many folklore tales: for not only are these flowers beautiful but they are also poisonous.
There are many different names and stories about Foxgloves and this is probably due to their dangerous nature. It was said that the fairy folk gave these enchanted bells to foxes to wear on their paws, giving them a ‘magical silence’ as they went about their mischievous business. Folklore also suggests that if you placed all your fingers simultaneously inside the bells, they would ring to summon the fairies.
Other names associated with Foxgloves are ‘Bloody Fingers, Deadman’s Bellows and Dragon’s Mouth,’ as their poison affects the cardiovascular system (heart and blood). Foxgloves scientific name is Digitalis purpurea (purple fingers) and the pharmaceutical component that can kill us is called Digoxin, which when broken down becomes Digitoxin, a widely used heart medication.
Another less mysterious name, ‘Bee-catchers,’ comes from the way that Foxgloves attract numerous Bumblebees due to their rich supply of nectar and pollen. The splattered spots inside the bells act as a landing pad for the bees, but folklore says that these patterns were made by the fairies that lived inside these amazing flowers.
What you can do for Foxgloves:
Foxgloves are not endangered but they are hugely beneficial to our Bumblebee populations, so if you are able to grow these flowers safely in your garden, then please do so! They are a biennial plant which means that in their first year they grow a rosette of leaves, without flowers and then in their second year they flower and cast out lots of tiny seeds, ready to grow afresh the following year.