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Fairies’ Gloves

The botanical name Digitalis is from the Latin for finger, and “folk” refers to fairies, hence the common name of folks' gloves or fairies' gloves.

foxgloves

Photo: Nathan Rupert (flickr)

Foxgloves.

Foxgloves belong to the genus Digitalis, which includes biennials and short-lived perennials hailing originally from Europe, northwestern Africa and central Asia.

The flowers are erect racemes of tubular blossoms that are pink, mauve, white, or cream and some have dark spots. The botanical name Digitalis is from the Latin for finger, and “folk” refers to fairies, hence the common name of folks’ gloves.

All parts of this plant are poisonous so deer avoid them. A chemical in the plant’s leaves has been used to make a valuable heart medication.

The blooms open progressively up the stem, and some blooms are bi-colored. These tall plants add vertical accents to partly shaded beds. They need well-drained moist soil and dislike heat so enjoy afternoon shade, and if not dead-headed, the plants will self-seed.

T. E. Brown, a British poet who lived from 1830-1897, wrote a poem to a foxglove. Although not native to Britain, they have long been a cherished flower in English gardens.

Here is the poem:

Secluded, tall
No vulgar bees
Consult you, wondering
If such a dainty thing
Can give them ease.
Yet what was that? Sudden a breeze
From the far mooreland sighed,
And you replied,
Quiv’ring a moment with a thrill
Sweet but ineffable.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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