Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See June, July, August, September
Colour Purple
Habitat Woodland, Heathland

Well known and easily recognisable, this wildflower has tall spikes which can bear up to eighty bell-shaped blooms.

These are usually pink but white variants are also occasionally seen. This plant is poisonous, so treat with caution.

Where it grows

Woodland clearings, heaths and banks.

Best time to see

June to September.

Cultural info

  • County Flower of the Argyll, the West Midlands, Leicestershire and Monmouthshire / Sir Fynwy.
  • In the Language of Flowers it is said to stand for insincerity.

How's it doing?

Stable. Often occurs as a garden escapee.

Did you know?

The mottled markings on foxglove flowers were once thought to be the hand-prints of fairies. In fact, in Gaelic, it was called lus nam ban-sith - 'the fairy woman's plant'.

Fairies are supposed to have given the corollas of this powerful plant to foxes. Wearing the foxgloves, the fox could then sneak in magic silence up to the poultry or away from people.

A single foxglove can produce over a million seeds.

Local names are numerous and include Dragon's mouth, Bunny rabbits, Floppy dock, Tod-tails, Bunch of grapes, Bloody man's fingers, Deadmen's thimbles and Fairy bells.

The name Foxglove arose perhaps because it grows in foxy places: on steep banks above rabbit-fields, by tracks up rough hill pastures, amongst bracken at the edge of heaths and in glades in acid woods.

It was proven in the eighteenth century that the Foxglove acts upon the heart and is a good diuretic, and it is now a major instrument against heart disease. Dosage, however, is critical: a fraction too high and it can stop the heart altogether! Foxglove's active principles digitoxin and digoxin have now been isolated and purified and are widely used in orthodox medicine as heart stimulants.

The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue, Will not reveal what peals were rungin Faery...

Mary Webb, "Foxgloves"