Foxglove, also known as Digitalis in Latin, is a plant genus with over twenty species. These plants have been around for centuries. Foxgloves’ existence dates back as far as 1000 AD. These wildflowers are beautiful and deadly at the same time as they are poisonous. Foxgloves, considered wildflowers, are popular garden flowers. They are every garden lover’s favorite, despite their poisonous nature and being short-lived. Foxgloves bloom in the months between June and September with pinkish-violet flowers. Gardens with foxgloves in bloom will look magical during these months.
Foxgloves are common in Europe, especially in the English countryside. They are also found in parts of Asia, North Africa, and also in the Canary Islands. They got introduced in the United States of America later in the 1700s. These plants, in the beginning, were part of the figwort family or Scrophulariaceae. Later, much modern research made taxonomists place them into the Plantaginaceae family.
The origin of the name ‘Foxglove’ is very interesting. There are many myths and superstitions related to the name of these blossoms. Foxglove’s Latin name ‘Digitalis’, derived from ‘digitus‘ which means finger-like. This refers to the finger-like shape of individual flowers and can fit on a finger like a thimble. The English name, ‘Foxglove’ has its root from the Anglo-Saxon use of ‘foxes glofa‘ meaning the fox’s glove.
The name ‘Foxglove’ has mythical stories behind it. One story says that foxes wear these flowers on their paws to remain silent while hunting. There are many nicknames for this particular plant. They include names like Fairy’s Gloves, Fairy’s Thimble, and Fairy Cap. People believed that fairies lived near these flowers which gave them these nicknames. Also, foxglove was simply ‘folk’s glove’ referring to fairies’ gloves. Witch’s Gloves or Dead Men’s Bells are other names associated with Foxglove. These names came into being because of their poisonous and deadly nature.
Foxglove plants can grow to a height of two meters. They have oval-shaped leaves at the base of the stem. Foxgloves grow in gardens, hedgerows, and in the edges of woodlands. Foxglove flowers are tube-like or bell-shaped. They grow in clusters on one side of the vertical stem. These flowers are of different colors including purple, red, pink, white, and many more. Out of all these, the purple-colored Foxgloves are the most common. The bottom petals of the flowers have spots on them to attract bees and hummingbirds to aid in pollination. As every part of the plant is poisonous, small animals like rabbits leave them alone. Foxgloves grow in full sun or full shade, depending on the heat. They need well-drained, moist, and humus-rich soil to thrive.
Although Foxgloves are poisonous, they have medicinal properties as well. Foxgloves were first used as part of folk medicine. People in Ireland, Scotland, England used foxgloves in folk medicine. Then, later, it spread to Europe. Foxgloves were medicines used to treat issues like coughs, boils, wounds, and headaches. But it was not proven to be very effective. In 1785, Dr. William Withering, an English physician, found Foxgloves effective in treating heart-related issues. Further study found the presence of a certain chemical in Foxgloves. These chemicals are effective in treating illnesses of the heart.
Digitalis genus has many numbers of varieties and hybrids under it. Out of all the varieties the major ones include:
- Rusty Foxglove or digitalis ferruginea
- Yellow Foxglove or digitalis grandiflora
- Straw Foxglove or digitalis lutea
- Small-flowered Foxglove or digitalis purviflora
The sizes and colors of these varieties will differ from each other.
Like any other flower, Foxgloves have their symbols and meanings too. Myths and superstitions surrounding them affect Foxglove flowers’ meanings and symbols.
What does Foxglove Flower Symbolize?
Foxgloves are a group of distinct flowering plants that has a magical and mystical air to them. The bright colors and small, droopy, bell-shaped flowers are eye-catching. It is fascinating and at the same time unbelievable that such a charming plant can be deadly too.
Foxglove flowers’ meaning and symbolization might be interesting and contradictory at the same time. This is because it is both a poison and a medicine. As seen earlier, the flower has a lot of mythical and superstitious stories and beliefs related to it. These flowers are native to Europe, parts of Asia as well as north and northwestern parts of Africa. The regional and cultural differences will also determine Foxglove flowers’ meaning and symbolization.
Foxglove has both positive and negative meanings as it is a poison and a medicine. As a result, foxgloves have fortunate and unfortunate meanings and symbols. Foxgloves, in the language of flowers, means insincerity. Meanwhile, it also means ‘I am not ambitious for myself, but for you’. This duality in meanings arises because of the flower’s ability to both heal and hurt. Foxgloves also have other symbolism attributed to them. They include stateliness, youth, pride, magic, connection, productivity, cooperation, ambition, and creativity.
Foxglove symbolizes fairies as they are seen as flowers of the fairies. It is believed and said that plucking foxgloves would anger the fairy folk. These flowers are used as symbols of Mother Mary. This is because, in medieval times, there were gardens dedicated to Virgin Mary. The foxgloves grown there came to be known as ‘Our Lady’s gloves’ or ‘Gloves of the Virgin.’ In Roman legends, foxgloves are associated with the goddess Flora. She uses the flower on Hera to get her pregnant with Mars. As a result, foxgloves became symbols of midwifery and women’s magic. This also gave the flowers the names ‘Granny’s gloves’ and ‘Granny’s Bonnets’.
What Do Various Colors Of Foxglove Flowers Mean?
Foxglove flowers bloom in a variety of colors. These colors include, red, pink, white, yellow, and purple. Each of these colored foxgloves has a variety of meanings which are listed below.
- White: White flowers often symbolize purity and innocence. So does a white foxglove flower. White foxglove flowers mean purity and openness and symbolize feminine energy. White foxglove flowers mean that an open heart will allow for growth and creativity.
- Yellow: Yellow flowers carry a meaning of clarity. The color is associated with warmth, cheer, positivity, and joy. Yellow foxglove flowers mean to have trust and confidence to move forward irrespective of the situation.
- Pink: Pink flowers mean to heal from emotional wounds. It also denotes love and beauty. Similarly, pink foxglove flowers meaning is very positive. It means to have hope.
- Purple: Purple foxglove flower meaning is that of wisdom, inspiration, and determination. Purple-colored flowers have soothing traits. As a result, watching a purple foxglove in bloom can bring one’s mind at ease.
- Red: A red foxglove flower means to be happy and cheerful. Bright red foxgloves are rare compared to the other colors. Their presence is very eye-catching as it draws one’s attention to it.
Interesting facts about foxglove flowers
Foxgloves are charming plants that are known for their medicinal and toxic properties. Many other traits and trivia are surrounding these flowers. Given below are some interesting facts about these flowers.
- One stalk of Foxglove has around 20 to 80 blooms arranged on it.
- In its first year, Foxgloves only grows leaves. Flowers bloom in the next year.
- Ingesting a very small piece of foxglove can be fatal to people.
- Foxgloves are one of the tallest wildflowers in Scotland. The tallest foxglove ever recorded grew over a height of 11 feet (3.35 m).
- Foxgloves’ association with fairies and witches has created various superstitions. In Scotland, it is a tradition to put foxgloves near a baby’s cradle to protect the child from fairies and witches.
- Being a medicinal and poisonous plant, foxgloves are believed to have the ability to raise the dead and kill the living.
- Foxgloves were sources of inspiration to many Scottish writers, poets, and musicians. A famous Scottish literary figure Marion Angus wrote about them.
The Best Time to Gift someone Foxglove flowers
Foxglove flowers are not given as gifts because of their toxic nature. As a gift to someone’s garden, it is best to gift them foxglove seeds and not as flowers.
Foxglove flowers are enchanting, and they are rich with mythical stories. Similar to the flowers being both medicinal and poisonous, they also have positive and negative meanings ranging from insincerity to pride and ambition. Yet, they have become a favorite to people and have found their ways into one’s garden and one’s heart.