1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Foxglove
FOXGLOVE, a genus of biennial and perennial plants of the natural order Scrophulariaceae. The common or purple foxglove, D. purpurea, is common in dry hilly pastures and rocky places and by road-sides in various parts of Europe; it ranges in Great Britain from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but it does not occur in Shetland or in some of the eastern counties of England. It flourishes best in siliceous soils, and is not found in the Jura and Swiss Alps. The characters of the plant are as follows: stem erect, roundish, downy, leafy below, and from 18 in. to 5 ft. or more in height; leaves alternate, crenate, rugose, ovate or elliptic oblong, and of a dull green, with the under surface downy and paler than the upper; radical leaves together with their stalks often a foot in length; root of numerous, slender, whitish fibres; flowers 13-21 in. long, pendulous, on one side of the stem, purplish crimson, and hairy and marked with eye-like spots within; segments of calyx ovate, acute, cleft to the base; corolla bell-shaped with a broadly two-lipped obtuse mouth, the upper lip entire or obscurely divided; stamens four, two longer than the other two (didynamous); anthers yellow and bilobed; capsule bivalved, ovate and pointed; and seeds numerous, small, oblong, pitted and of a pale brown. As Parkinson remarks of the plant, “It flowreth seldome before July, and the seed is ripe in August”; but it may occasionally be found in blossom as late as September. Many varieties of the common foxglove have been raised by cultivation, with flowers varying in colour from white to deep rose and purple; in the variety gloxinioides the flowers are almost regular, suggesting those of the cultivated gloxinia. Other species of foxglove with variously coloured flowers have been introduced into Britain from the continent of Europe. The plants may be propagated by unflowered off-sets from the roots, but being biennials are best raised from seed.
The foxglove, probably from folks’-glove, that is fairies’ glove, is known by a great variety of popular names in Britain. In the south of Scotland it is called bloody fingers; farther north, dead-men’s-bells; and on the eastern borders, ladies’ thimbles, wild mercury and Scotch mercury. In Ireland it is generally known under the name of fairy thimble. Among its Welsh synonyms are menyg-ellyllon (elves’ gloves), menyg y llwynog (fox’s gloves), bysedd cochion (redfingers) and bysedd y cwn (dog’s fingers). In France its designations are gants de notre dame and doigts de la Vierge. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested to Fuchs, in 1542, the employment of the Latin adjective digitalis as a designation for the plant. Other species of foxglove or Digitalis although found in botanical collections are not generally grown. For medicinal uses see Digitalis.