The Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea


The foxglove, or common foxglove, is a species of flowering plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae, that is native to, and widespread throughout, most of temperate Europe. Foxgloves can be found in a broad range of habitats, but are especially common in woodland areas and on roadside verges of country lanes. They are a biennial plant, growing as a rosette of leaves in the first year, before flowering and then dying in the second year. It produces beautiful strings of tubular flowers on a 1-2m central stalk that are mainly purple (although they can be white), with the inside of each flower being spotted in a leopard-print type fashion. Foxgloves are potentially deadly poisonous, and can have serious heart-related consequences if consumed in large quantities. Although deadly poisonous, the heart drug Digoxin was successfully created from the plant, and is used to treat heart conditions all over the world.

Possible Confusion & How to Stay Safe

The flowers of the Foxglove are very distinctive and it is very unlikely that an adult would misidentify them whilst out and about on a forage. Young children however, could confuse them with another tall, purple flowered edible plant, the Rosebay Willowherb. If you plan on harvesting Rosebay Willowherb with your children, it is very important to introduce them to Foxgloves very early on, letting them explore the differences between the two different plants, ideally side-by-side. We did this with Arthur, and he is now able to distinguish the two species quite easily - even pointing out white varieties of Foxglove when we come across them.

The leaves and stalks of Rosebay Willowherb are quite different from Foxglove.

The flowers of Rosebay Willowherb are also very different to the tubular flowers of the Foxglove.