Foxgloves – also known as Fairy Gloves, Lion’s Mouth and Witches’ Fingers – have long featured in herbal medicine, the leaves used as infusions and compresses. But it was in the 1780s that William Withering, Shropshire-born botanist and physician, discovered the plant’s most potent use is for the slowing and strengthening of the heartbeat. In 1785 he published An account of the foxglove in which he outlined his findings and the results of his clinical trials. Foxgloves are also highly toxic, so getting the precise dosage was absolutely critical. Nevertheless, efficacy won over potential risk and eventually the active principles, digitoxin and digoxin were isolated and purified. These are still used in mainstream medicine, though the source of choice is a European species Digitalis lanata.
In his Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey also tells the story of how my corner of Shropshire on Wenlock Edge played its part during World War II when the import of European foxglove supplies was foiled by war. Apparently the foxgloves growing on certain areas of eroded limestone were especially potent. And until 1949 large quantities of the plants were also gathered across the county by members of Women’s Institutes, the leaves put to dry in nets in bakery lofts and clothes drying rooms.
The foxglove in the photo is growing in a shady corner of the garden. It brought itself there a while back and in real life is of a colour more rosy pink than purple. In monochrome, though, there’s a compelling eeriness about it. Witches’ thimbles, eh.
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: flowers
Well, it has to be some kind of magic, foxgloves in November. And not just one aberrant stem, but several all set to bloom. And this after last week’s several frosty days. But what a treat to find it flowering outside the back door – its blushed peachy shades looking far too delicate for this autumn outing.
There are other treasures too. In the raised bed at the top of the garden there are delicate cascades of Aster Lady in Black. I bought it at the end of last summer, and it has just now come into its own. It doesn’t grow too large, but has dark stems and feathery leaves and a slightly unruly habit, and while the individual flowers are tiny, the overall effect is perfect for brightening a late season border.
And then there are still some crimson snapdragons and coral hesperantha:
A week ago the wilderness garden behind our house was all columbines. They went to seed very quickly and now it’s the foxgloves’ turn – along with the Dame’s Violets and the slender spires of purple toadflax. All self-sown and grown. I’m rather taken with the foxglove on the right, the one with creamy lips. I must remember to collect some seed, though there’s no knowing how its offspring will turn out.
The white foxgloves are lovely too. They have lime green speckles inside each flower.
And finally a view looking out over the garden wall as the sun goes down over Wenlock Edge.
This Sunday at Lost in Translation, Paula asks us to show her a black and white version of a colour original. This summer shot was taken from the back of our house looking towards Wenlock Edge as the sun was going down.
Just over the garden fence we have a strip of ground that grows itself each year – mostly self-seeded foxgloves, columbine, corn cockle, moon daisies and opium poppies along with some perennial lemon balm, spearmint and oregano. It’s a treat waiting to see what will happen there every summer. Just thinking of this brightens a rather gloomy January day here in Shropshire.
Now here’s the original colour shot:
And now I can’t resist posting some more transformations in and around Much Wenlock. Clearly, some work better than others, but in any event, as Paula says, it helps one to see with fresh eyes:
Yesterday at the Farrell establishment we had bees in poppies. Today it’s bees in the foxgloves, and thank you to Lynn at Word Shamble for mentioning bees and foxgloves in the comments. This reminded me I’d taken these snaps earlier in the month just before the foxgloves went over. I was trying out my new second-hand Canon Ixus 870 – and oh, the nippy little macro setting – I’m in love with it!
Also please drop in at Lynn’s blog to read a wicked piece of flash fiction: it definitely has a sting in the tale/tail.
Now for more shots of bees. Also just look at the foxglove’s come-hither devices – no ‘Sat Nav Map Error’ here; but an intricate systems of dots and splodges guiding in any would-be pollinator to get pollinating. It looks like every little ‘glove’ has its own touch-pad access code:
Cee’s Flower of the Day
Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Details