FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Thursday, 16 June 2016


The sight of Foxglove can steal your heart, but this beauty could just as easily stop it....

Digitalis Purpurea, Commonly known as foxglove, is a beautiful killer. The scientific name means "finger-like" and refers to the ease with which a flower of Digitalis Purpurea can be fitted over a human fingertip. We grow it in a memorial planter for my grandmother because I have memories as a child of her pointing out foxglove to me over in the grounds the local cricket club, where we often used to walk. 

We also grow it because it is a fond favourite of the bees and it provides them with a bounty of nectar, but that is not all this plant is capable of. Due to the presence of the cardiac glycoside digitoxin, the leaves, flowers and seeds of this plant are all poisonous to humans and some animals and can be fatal if ingested. Symptoms of Digitalis poisoning include a low pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, and uncoordinated contractions of different parts of the heart, leading to cardiac arrest and finally death. 
It does have the potential to heal as much as harm though, the active compounds are extracted from digitalis and used medicinally to regulate the heart rate, at precisely the right dosage,Digitalis toxin can cause the heart to beat more strongly. However, digitoxin and digoxin are known to have steep dose-response curves, i.e., minuscule increases in the dosage of these drugs can make the difference between an ineffective dose and a fatal one.

Wise words of warning from our resident expert standing beside our Apricot Foxglove, demonstrating exactly how it gets his name by sticking his finger in the flower!

 Some people find it bizarre that I teach the children about poisons and seem to think it is strange! I can't think of anything more downright stupid than NOT telling the children about plants in our garden that could potentially harm them? Surely it would be folly to tell the children about all the things they CAN eat in the garden without warning them about the ones they CAN'T?

Love to hear your thoughts on this subject, there are so many potentially lethal plants in peoples gardens, it's worrying that most people don't know about them!

1 comment

  1. My wife and I watch a lot of BBC mysteries on our public television channel . We like "The Dr. Blake Mysteries" and "Father Browning." I can remember episodes of each where the villain used Fox Glove to kill off the victims. I have never heard of it growing here in North Georgia, maybe we don't have it. I'd say teaching the kids about it would be pretty basic common sense. I sure taught mine about plants like poison ivy when they were little. That stuff won't kill you but it will make you wish you were dead.


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