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Digitalis purpurea was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his pivotal publication Species Plantarum in 1753. The generic name Digitalis comes from the Latin for finger (digitus), referring to the shape of the flowers. The specific epithet purpurea refers to the colour of the flowers, which are frequently purple (although a white-flowered form is fairly common). Common foxglove is a popular ornamental, and many hybrids and cultivars are available.

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)

[FZ]

Scrophulariaceae, D. Philcox. Flora Zambesiaca 8:2. 1990

Morphology General Habit
Biennial or perennial herb up to 75 (125) cm. tall, erect, shortly pubescent or lanate above, glabrescent below.
Morphology Leaves
Basal leaves long petiolate; lamina lanceolate-ovate to ovate, pubescent with indumentum of mixed short glandular and multicellular eglandular white hairs, 7.5–15 x 2–6.5 cm., finely serrate to crenate-dentate, obtuse at apex, cuneate at base, coarsely reticulate-veined; petiole 8.5–14 cm. long, indumentum similar to that of lamina; stem leaves few, similar to basal but much reduced in size, continuing above with much greater reduction as sessile, entire floral bracts.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence 15–50 or more-flowered, simple to rarely slightly branched, flowers drooping.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Pedicel
Pedicels 6–18 mm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx 5-lobed to base, 6–18 x 3–12 mm., ovate, strongly nerved, the uppermost smaller, more acute at apex.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla 4.0–4.5 cm. long, shortly 4-lobed, light purple usually crimson spotted, to rarely white.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens included.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule 14 x 8 mm., ovoid obtuse.

[FTEA]

Scrophulariaceae, S.A. Ghazanfar, F.N. Hepper & D. Philcox. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2008

Morphology General Habit
Biennial herb
Morphology Leaves
Leaves of first year rosette, oblong-lanceolate, about 20 cm long and 10 cm wide, acute, long-cuneate and with petiole winged, margins crenatedentate, softly grey pubescent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence 0.5–1.8 m tall, in one-sided raceme by twisting of pedicels
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx lobes ovate, acute
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla pink (or sometimes white in gardens) with darker spots inside among the long hairs, tube ± 45 mm long; lobes 5, short, rounded, spreading
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule ± 8 mm long, acute, longer than the calyx.
Note
A common western European plant of open woodland and hedges on acid soil, also cultivated in gardens. Although grown occasionally as an ornamental plant in gardens in upland East Africa, it seems to have become naturalised in a few places.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Naturalizada en Colombia; Alt. 2200 - 3600 m.; Andes.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba
Conservation
No Evaluada

[UNAL]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
dedalera, digital, digitalis, guargüerón, guargüerones, guergüerón, guarguerón o digital

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
A popular ornamental, with tall spires of tapered, tubular, purple to pink or white flowers, common foxglove is also a source of digitoxin, used in the heart drug digitalis.

Digitalis purpurea was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his pivotal publication Species Plantarum in 1753. The generic name Digitalis comes from the Latin for finger (digitus), referring to the shape of the flowers. The specific epithet purpurea refers to the colour of the flowers, which are frequently purple (although a white-flowered form is fairly common). Common foxglove is a popular ornamental, and many hybrids and cultivars are available.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Common foxglove is thought to be native to west, south-west and west central Europe, and to be widely naturalised further east.

Its exact status, whether truly native or naturalised, in each country is unknown, but it is possibly native in the following countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy (Sardinia), Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden (and perhaps also Austria, Denmark, Hungary, The Netherlands and Poland).

It is naturalised in North America, and is listed as an 'invasive and noxious weed' by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Description Overview:  An erect biennial (or short-lived perennial), growing up to 2 m tall, with a downy covering of hair.

Leaves: The basal leaves are ovate to lanceolate and are borne on a winged petiole (leaf stalk) of 3-12 cm long.

Flowers: The flowers are borne on a simple or sparsely branched raceme with un-stalked bracts; the upper bracts are sometimes minute. The pedicels (individual flower stalks) are 11-20 mm long and hairy. The corolla (petals) is purple to pale pink or white, 40-55 mm long, and is usually marked on the inside with dark purple spots edged with white.

Fruits: The fruit is an ovoid capsule of 11 x 7 mm, equal to or longer than the calyx (sepals). The brown, rectangular seeds are almost 1 mm long, with a network of ridges across the surface.

The flowers usually open between June and September and are pollinated by bumblebees.

Uses

Common foxglove is cultivated for its ornamental value, and many hybrids (with other Digitalis species) and cultivars are available. It is also grown to attract bumblebees to gardens. Its flowers provide food for larvae of the foxglove pug moth ( Eupithecia pulchellata ) and it is also a food plant for larvae of the frosted orange moth ( Gortyna flavago ).

Digitalis purpurea also contains loliolide, a potent ant-repellent which was once used as an insecticidal disinfectant for walls in the Forest of Dean, England.

Medicinal uses

Foxgloves are a source of digitoxin, a glycoside used in the drug digitalis, which has been used as a heart stimulant since 1785. It is also well-known for its toxicity, and ingestion of the leaves (usually as a result of misidentification for comfrey,  Symphytum officinale ) can result in severe poisoning.

Despite their toxicity, they have been widely used in folk-medicine. Foxglove tea (an infusion of the leaves) was taken for colds, fevers and catarrh, and compresses were used for ulcers, swellings and bruises. Its most common use was as a diuretic against dropsy (accumulation of fluid in the tissues), for which it was sometimes effective, but occasionally proved fatal.

William Withering, an 18th century botanist and physician, studied the medicinal use of foxgloves, in particular their use in the treatment of dropsy. He discovered that an infusion of the leaves could slow and strengthen the heartbeat, which in turn stimulated the kidneys to clear the body and lungs of excess fluid. He also showed that foxglove leaves could be used in the treatment of heart failure (but that high doses could stop the heart).

Withering's  An Account of the Foxglove and Some of its Medical Uses: with Practical Remarks on Dropsy, and Other Diseases  (1785) is a landmark publication, being the first English text in which the therapeutic effects of a drug are described, and is considered by some to mark the birth of modern pharmacology. Withering's work led to the eventual isolation and purification of digitoxin and digoxin (cardiac glycosides used in modern medicine as heart stimulants in the drug digitalis).

Today, digitalis is normally made using  Digitalis lanata  leaves (although during the Second World War  D. purpurea seeds were collected from the wild and grown to produce large quantities of leaves for medicinal use).

Toxicity of foxgloves

The main toxins in Digitalis species are cardiac glycosides, which are present in all parts of the plant. The flowers contain the lowest concentration of toxins, yet their ingestion can still result in gastrointestinal effects. The ingestion of leaves can cause oral and abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In severe cases, symptoms can include visual and perceptual disturbances and heart and kidney problems. There have been many reported cases of poisoning, for example when foxglove leaves have been mistakenly collected by those wishing to make comfrey ( Symphytum officinale ) herbal tea.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew'sMillennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

A collection of  Digitalis purpurea  seeds is held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

See Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Digitalis purpurea seeds

This species at Kew

Digitalis purpurea can be seen growing wild in the grounds of Queen Charlotte's Cottage at Kew. It is also grown in the Queen's Garden (behind Kew Palace), the Secluded Garden, and the Woodland Garden around the Temple of Aeolus. Extensive areas of foxgloves can be seen in the woodlands at Wakehurst.

Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of common foxglove are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Specimens of Digitalis purpurea leaves, seeds, roots, wood, prepared digitalis BP, a 'concentrated infusion of foxglove', and digoxin tablets are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Ecology
Open places, especially woodland clearings, heaths and mountainsides and also waste ground (especially on disturbed sites and as a pioneer on burnt areas); on acid or calcareous soils; also as a garden escape.
Conservation
Not threatened. Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

All parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten. Contact with plant material can cause irritation.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, medicinal.

Native to:

Belgium, Corse, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Morocco, Portugal, Sardegna, Spain, Sweden

Introduced into:

Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Arkansas, Austria, Azores, Baltic States, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, British Columbia, California, Canary Is., Central European Rus, Chile Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Colorado, Connecticut, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, East European Russia, East Himalaya, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hungary, Idaho, Jamaica, Korea, Krym, Kuril Is., Madeira, Maine, Malawi, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Michigan, Montana, Netherlands, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Newfoundland, North Carolina, Northwest European R, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Peru, Poland, Québec, Réunion, Sakhalin, South European Russi, Ukraine, Uruguay, Utah, Venezuela, Vermont, Vietnam, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Zimbabwe

English
Common foxglove

Digitalis purpurea L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jun 1, 2009 Pensiero [4592], Argentina K000542837
Jun 1, 2009 Wood [645], Bolivia K000542838
Feb 1, 2008 Rico, L. [1313], Bolivia K000295146
Meikle, R.D., United Kingdom 11207.000
Verdcourt, B. [5475], United Kingdom 51383.000
Dombrowski, L.T. [645], Brazil K001048685
Cope, T.A. [RBG 411], United Kingdom K000914374
Dombrowski, L.T. [1643], Brazil K001048684

First published in Sp. Pl.: 621 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Ackerfield, J. (2015). Flora of Colorado: 1-818. BRIT Press.
  • Arbo, M.M. & al. (2018). Flora Argentina. Flora vascular de la República Argentina 20(1): 1-488. INTA, IMBIV & IBODA.
  • Barkalov, V.Y. (ed.) (1991). Plantae Vasculares Orientalis Extremi Sovietici 5: 1-388. Nauka, Leningrad.
  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, R.S. & Celis, M. (eds.) (2016). Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia 1-2: 1-3068. Libro impreso.
  • Bosser, J. & al. (eds.) (2000). Flore des Mascareignes 127-135: 1. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
  • Brako, L. & Zarucchi, J.L. (1993). Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 45: i-xl, 1-1286. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Gilman, A.V. (2015). New flora of Vermont Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614.
  • Govaerts, R. (2000). World Checklist of Seed Plants Database in ACCESS D: 1-30141.
  • Hammel, B.E., Grayum, M.H., Herrera, C. & Zamora, N. (eds.) (2015). Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica. Volumen VIII. Dicotyledóneas (Sabiaceae-Zygophyllaceae) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 131: 1-657. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánez, S. (eds.) (1999). Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 75: i-viii, 1-1181. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Jørgensen, P.M., Nee, M.H. & Beck., S.G. (eds.) (2013). Catálogo de las plantas vasculares de Bolivia Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 127: 1-1741. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Kliment, J., Turis, P. & Janišová, M. (2016). Taxa of vascular plants endemic to the Carpathian Mts Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 88: 19-76.
  • Lê, T.C. (2005). Danh l?c các loài th?c v?t Vi?t Nam 3: 1-1248. Hà N?i : Nhà xu?t b?n Nông nghi?p.
  • Meades, S.J. & Brouillet, L. (2019). Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador https://www.newfoundland-labradorflora.com/checklist/.
  • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1972). Flora Europaea 3: 1-370. Cambridge University Press.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542.
  • Z.Wu & P.H.Raven (eds.) (1998). Flora of China 18: 1-449. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis).
  • de Kok, R.P.J. (2015). A revision of Cryptocarya (Lauraceae) from Thailand and Indochina Gardens' Bulletin Singapore 67: 309-350.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Aronson, J. K. (1985). An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses, 1785-1985. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Dauncey, E. A. (2010). Poisonous Plants: A Guide for Parents & Childcare Providers. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Huxley, A. (ed.) (1997). T he New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 2 (D-K). Macmillan Reference Ltd, London.
  • Lin, C.-C., Yang, C.-C., Phua, D.-H., Deng, J.-F. & Lu, L.-H. (2010). An outbreak of foxglove leaf poisoning. Journal of the Chinese Medical Association 73: 97-100.
  • Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Mabey, R. (1997). Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.
  • Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A. & Dines, T. A. (eds) (2002). New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora: An Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (2008) Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1.
  • Stace, C. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles, 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • The Plant List (2010). Digitalis purpurea.

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • ColPlantA (2021). "ColPlantA. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.colplanta.org/"

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Ackerfield, J. (2015). Flora of Colorado: 1-818. BRIT Press.
  • Amith, J. & collaborators (2020). Nahuatl Learning Environment http://www.balsas-nahuatl.org/index.html.
  • Arbo, M.M. & al. (2018). Flora Argentina. Flora vascular de la República Argentina 20(1): 1-488. INTA, IMBIV & IBODA.
  • Barkalov, V.Y. (ed.) (1991). Plantae Vasculares Orientalis Extremi Sovietici 5: 1-388. Nauka, Leningrad.
  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, R.S. & Celis, M. (eds.) (2016). Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia 1-2: 1-3068. Libro impreso.
  • Bosser, J. & al. (eds.) (2000). Flore des Mascareignes 127-135: 1. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
  • Brako, L. & Zarucchi, J.L. (1993). Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 45: i-xl, 1-1286. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
  • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2013). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 5: 1-451. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2019). Flora of North America North of Mexico 17: 1-737. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
  • Forzza, R.C., Zappi, D. & Souza, V.C. (2016-continuously updated). Flora do Brasil 2020 em construção http://reflora.jbrj.gov.br/reflora/listaBrasil/ConsultaPublicaUC/ResultadoDaConsultaNovaConsulta.do.
  • GBIF (2008-2020). Global Biodiversity Information Facility http://www.gbif.org/.
  • Gilman, A.V. (2015). New flora of Vermont Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614.
  • Grierson, A.J.C. & Long, D.G. (2001). Flora of Bhutan 2: 1-1675. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Hammel, B.E., Grayum, M.H., Herrera, C. & Zamora, N. (eds.) (2015). Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica. Volumen VIII. Dicotyledóneas (Sabiaceae-Zygophyllaceae) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 131: 1-657. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánez, S. (eds.) (1999). Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 75: i-viii, 1-1181. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Jørgensen, P.M., Nee, M.H. & Beck., S.G. (eds.) (2013). Catálogo de las plantas vasculares de Bolivia Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 127: 1-1741. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Kliment, J., Turis, P. & Janišová, M. (2016). Taxa of vascular plants endemic to the Carpathian Mts Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 88: 19-76.
  • Lê, T.C. (2005). Danh l?c các loài th?c v?t Vi?t Nam 3: 1-1248. Hà N?i : Nhà xu?t b?n Nông nghi?p.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542.
  • Z.Wu & P.H.Raven (eds.) (1998). Flora of China 18: 1-449. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis).

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
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Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
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Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca
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Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
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Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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Universidad Nacional de Colombia
ColPlantA database
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