Monday, 23 June 2008

foxgloves in Downgate

It has been an amazing year for foxgloves. This bank of foxgloves is at the top of Downgate Hill; in the distance is Stoke Climsland Village, and beyond that the sunnier reaches of North Cornwall.


  1. We have been admiring these foxgloves for a couple of weeks as we drive past on the school run. Eleanor (4) is particularly fascinated by them because she wonders how they got their name and because of their poisonous properties.


  2. the name is probably a corruption of older names, eg glove may be derived from gliew, a saxon word for bell, and fox may be a corruption of folk's, ie the little folk or fairies, and in some places foxgloves are called fairy bells. But Mabey says it is a corruption of foxes glofa, associated with foxy places, and this is the derivation supported by OED of etymology.

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  5. Some foxglove trivia. I once worked for a pharmaceutical company which extracted digitoxin from foxglove pollen. In the pre-mechanisation days, the pollen was harvested by tapping the flower against a large felt glove and brushed off into a larger container every now and again. Some examples can be found in the Wellcome Museum of Medicine in London.

  6. According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, "The name foxglove is from the old English name "foxes glofa." It comes from an old myth that foxes must have used the flowers to magically sheath their paws as they stealthily made their nocturnal raids into the poultry yards of rural folk. The association is natural for the foxgloves grew on the wooded hillside slopes that foxes chose for their dens."

    The scientific genus name also refers to the fact that foxglove flowers are just about the right size for you to slip your fingers into them, as the Latin, digitalis literally translates, "measuring a finger's breadth."