The Foxglove – of Fairytales, Myths & Medicine
June is the month when elegant Foxgloves are at their best in many parts of Wales. I took most of the photographs in this post in Pembrokeshire where they adorn woodlands, roadsides and cliffs of the mainland and some of the offshore islands. Beautiful to behold, poisonous in the wrong hands yet life-saving when used for good, they have a long-held and fascinating place in our natural history.
Foxglove–Digitalis purpurea – Welsh – Ffion or Maneg Ellyllyn — The Good People’s Glove
The graceful Foxglove is a downy biennial herb that thrives in acidic soils in a wide range of habitats. In their first year large downy basal leaves are produced, followed in their second year by impressive flower spikes from 3-6 feet (1-2m) tall. The plants die once they have seeded, but if the flowers are picked before they go to seed, the basal leaves will last another year and they will attempt to seed again.
Three basic colours self-seed – pink, purple & white. They can come true to the parent plant where colour forms are isolated, but they cross-pollinate freely & many stands of foxgloves include all three shades.
In Wales the Foxglove is a characteristic plant of early summer, thriving on acidic soil in the shady conditions of open woods, woodland clearings and hedge banks. But it also tolerates the open and exposed habitats of moorland and heath margins, sea-cliffs and rocky mountain slopes.
It may also appear where ground has been disturbed, such as in newly cleared woodland, or where the