Thursday, June 21, 2012

Foxglove (Toxic)

The lower half of Grandparents' back yard is absolutely covered in Foxgloves right now. At some point a few were planted around an old stump, and left unattended for a few years they've spread. It's a nice place for them, as it's only in full sun for a small part of the day, while spending the rest of the day in the shade, which Foxgloves prefer.

Foxglove (digitalis purpurea) is a poisonous plant. The leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots are all toxic to humans - as well as dogs, cats, and some other domestic animals like horses and cows. Despite being toxic, an extract from the plant is sometimes used in modern medicine for some heart conditions. Herbalists of the past also used this plant to treat various conditions, such as treatment for an irregular pulse, muscle issues, headaches, and even boils. I'll say it again though, this plant is toxic. It can kill you. There is a very narrow range when it comes to using this plant safely, and it is very hard to accurately gauge just how much to administer.

Foxglove has a host of other folk names. Names involving Fae are quite common - Fairy Bells, Fairy Skirts, Fairy Thimbles, and Fairy Caps. It is also known as Deadman's Bells. Foxglove is a favorite hiding place for the Fae and spirits alike. It is said that when the stalks of the Foxglove bend over, there are spirits present. Planting Foxglove around the home, or on the edges of your property, and leaving them undisturbed will bring the protection of the spirits. However, it is also said Foxglove juice will ward of Fae and other mischievous spirits.

The Fae were also said to have told the foxes how to wear the flowers on their feet, so they would be silent when sneaking up to chickens to steal them - and so, Foxglove. The Fae also taught the foxes how to ring the bells of the flowers, so they could warn fellow foxes when hunters were about.

Several other folk names focus on witches - Witches' Gloves, Witches' Thimbles, Witches' Bells, and so on. Foxglove was among one of the plants used by witches in making flying ointments and potions. In some areas, a dye was extracted from the leaves of the Foxglove, and used to paint lines on cottage floors - likely to ward off witches.

Foxgloves come in a variety of colors, ranging from white to dark purple. The flowers have a little spotted pattern on the inside of the bell, and they too can vary from very light to very dark. Folklore says the spots are where Fae or spirits have rested on the blooms.

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