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Foxglove

About Foxglove
Foxgloves are one of the most important plants comprising of 20 species of herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and biennials. The foxgloves are scientifically termed as "Digitalis Purpurea", the meaning of which is "finger-like". This is due to the fact that a foxglove flower can be easily fitted over the fingertips of human beings. These are biennial flowers, and their leaves can be seen in the forms of a rosette in the first year, followed by the appearance of a spike flower in the next year. To grow healthy, they need a sandy loam soil, and partial sun to full shade to survive. Digoxigenin, an asteroid found in the flowers and leaves of the foxglove plant, is primarily used as a molecular probe to detect DNA or RNA.

 

Features of a Foxglove Flower
The foxglove flowers, also known as digitalis, are shaped in the form of bells or tubes, and are slightly flattened on the top. These flowers are usually 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length. The are inflated or bloated from beneath and look crimson in colour from outside. The lower portion of the flower comprises of long and dark hairs and they are marked with numerous red spots, each of which is surrounded with a white border.

The foxglove flowers look when they bloom in the shape of a pyramid. They appear in a variety of colours like white, yellow, pink, rose, red, lavender and purple. They thrive well in iron and coal rich soils. Foxgloves prefer part to full shade, and can survive temperate zones.

 

Etymology of the Term Foxglove
According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, the term 'foxglove is derived from an old English name, namely "foxes glofa", which derives its origin from an old myth. According to this myth, the foxes, to make their way inside the poultry farms to eat the chicken, must have magically sheathed their paws by applying the foxglove flowers. This enables them to move about without making any noise. The connection between foxgloves and foxes seemed quite natural since foxgloves are grown on those wooded hillside slopes that foxes chose for their dens.

Growing Foxglove Flower
The very fist step in the process of growing foxglove flower is to sow the seeds of the foxglove plant

directly after all the dangers of frost have disappeared. It is advisable to sow them early in the season, and they should be covered with 1/8" of garden soil. The optimum soil temperature for germination should be 60-65°F. A group of few seeds should be placed at a considerable distance of 24". Foxgloves should be planted in an area that has full sun to partial shade. The soil in which it is planted should be kept moist in order to enhance the plant's full growth.

Water it every once or twice in a week during dry season and apply a general purpose fertilizer to it. This will result in a fuller, and bigger bloom of the flowers. Always cut the bloom before they reach their peak.

 

The Various Constituents of Foxgloves
Foxgloves are a rich source of cardiac glycosides like digoxin, lanatosides, digotoxin, digitonin, digitalacrin, etc. Other constituents include anthraquinones, flavonoids, and saponins. Although digitoxin strengthens the heartbeat rapidly, it is excreted very slowly. Digoxin, another constituent is used as a long-term medication.

Folklore Associated with Foxglove
Foxglove has loads of folklore that makes it a very interesting flower. It is believed that fairies gave to the foxes lots of foxglove flowers to wear on their paws so that they can walk towards their prey

without making any noise. In fact, it is also said that the fairies wore them as gloves and hats. These fairies also wore them in the form of petticoats, and also used them as thimbles while making clothes for themselves. The juice extracted from the foxglove plant was believed to ward off those fairies who tried to kidnap children. Foxglove has also often been used as a symbol of insincerity.

 

Medicinal Use of Foxgloves
Foxgloves flowers, because of their medicinal usage, are also termed as herbs. They have been used as a treatment for heart failure for the last 200 years. These beneficial effects of the foxglove flowers were first discovered in the year 1775, by an English physician named William Withering. They contain cardiac glycosides which are highly helpful in treating heart ailments. These flowers also help in regulating the pulse rate to the normal level. Many of ailments like excessive fluid retention or excessive swelling that were related with congestive heart failure have been reported to be cured by consuming this medicine. This flower was also used by the ancient Britons to cure wounds and injuries. It can also cure nausea, stomach ailments, etc.

A Note of Caution
While foxgloves can effectively treat many life threatening diseases, they can prove to be harmful and sometimes fatal if taken in large amounts. Even a slight overdose of this flower can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, anorexia, etc. It can also lead to loos of appetite, thus resulting in an unusual reduction in weight.

 
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