Tag Archives: Foxglove

Plants the Fairies Like and Dislike


lovely magical fairy woman

Our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, tells me I have a very fairy friendly garden, which is good to know. But for those of you who want to up your appeal in the fairy world, here are some plants you might want to include in your garden, and some to ward off malevolent fae. Plus more ABOUT fairies.

“Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels.  But their magic sparkles in nature.”  ~Lynn Holland

“The fairies break their dances

And leave the printed lawn.”

~A.E. Housman

Colorful foxglovesFoxglove. Fairies are reputed to love the blossoms, and the plant is essential for fairy gardens. According to legend, fairies sleep in the bell-shaped flowers, and wear them as gloves. In addition to foxglove, thyme is thought to be a favorite of fairies and drifts of thyme are left for them in the garden. If you plant a fairy garden, be certain to include, thyme, foxglovesaffron, rosemary, and roses.

“The fairy poet takes a sheet

Of moonbeam, silver white;

His ink is dew from daisies sweet,

His pen a point of light.”

~Joyce Kilmer

Bluebell forest in IrelandScottish or English bluebells are also highly favored by fairies. Lore has it that they ring the bluebells to call a meeting and anyone who hears the bells ring will die or fall under the enchantment of fairies. And whatever you do, don’t step inside a bluebell ring or you’ll meet the same fate. Another lovely bit of lore says a young woman who can turn a single bluebell inside out without damaging the blossom will win the one she loves.

I trust they also like the Virginia bluebells my dear grandmother gave me that have spread beautifully and bloom in among the late daffodils.

“Spread your wings and let the fairy in you fly!” ~Author Unknown

“Nothing can be truer than fairy wisdom.  It is as true as sunbeams.” ~Douglas Jerrold

anemone--wind flowersWood Anemone: These are beautiful plants. I have some anemones, also called wind flowers, that bloom in my spring garden.

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin

“A widespread plant of woods, also found on upland grassland and moorland where it may be a relic indicating previous woodland cover. It provided  a safe refuge for fairies to take their beauty sleep or shelter from rain, as the flower closes at night and at the onset of wet weather.”

Blooms in spring. Note: Poisonous. Contains a bitter oil that causes severe skin irritations and gastric disturbances if ingested. Musky scent. Alternative name ‘Smell fox.’

462211333Now here’s an interesting flower and twist on fairies.

The Butterwort Family: From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin

“This was a magical plant in the Scottish islands. People who carried it were protected from witches; cows that had eaten it were immune to elf-arrows. It was woven with other flowers into a magic hoop to place under the milk pail and protect the milk from fairies. There is a story of a woman keeping watch over a newborn baby to prevent fairies stealing it and leaving a changeling—a sickly, fey fairy child—in its place. Two fairies came to the cradle and could not take the child because its mother had eaten butter made from milk of a cow that had eaten butterwort.”

”From this informative site on Butterwort (A carnivorous plant): http://www.plantlife.org.uk/scotland/wild_plants/plant_species_scotland/?ent=1220

“The striking triangular leaves, with their rolled edges, appear in a star pattern at the base of this pretty flower.”

The flowers are deep violet-blue with a pointy funnel shape. Butterwort is widely distributed in Scotland, Wales, and the north of England. It likes a damp habitat such as bogs, fens, wet heaths and the crevices between rocks.

Scottish bluebell fairyButterworts main use medicinally is for coughs, particularly whooping cough. The leaves are used to curdle milk in order to make butter.

Mountain Ash, also known as the Rowan Tree in the UK and Dogberry Tree in parts of Canada, is a familiar sight in the mountains surrounding the Shenandoah Valley.

Rowan trees planted near stone circles in Scotland were thought to be favored by fairies who held their celebrations within the protective tree enclosed circle. Fairies are extremely cautious. But the fae can also get up to mischief, so the rowan would protect you from that as well. One of those multi-use herbs/trees. It’s gorgeous in autumn when covered with bright red berries, and particularly attractive to birds.

Winter beautyRowan or Mountain Ash also wards off werewolves, possibly vampires and witches, too, should these be a problem for you.

“This is a work of fiction. All the characters in it, human and otherwise, are imaginary, excepting only certain of the fairy folk, whom it might be unwise to offend by casting doubts on their existence. Or lack thereof.” ~Neil Gaiman

 

Foxglove and Fairies–Herbal Lore–Beth Trissel


*These foxgloves are growing in a garden in Colonial Williamsburg.

“…where the deer’s swift leap Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.” ~John Keats

Foxglove, also known as Digitalis: I’ve grown this beautiful flower/herb and used to have a spectacular stand of foxglove but they died out one winter and I’ve had the dickens of a time getting new plants established.  Because foxglove is a biennial, it has to grow one season and survive the winter, the tricky part, and then resurrects the following spring and blooms in late spring/early summer.  If you’re fortunate the plants reseed and perpetuate themselves.  If not, you must begin again.  But it’s well worth growing.  I suspect our soil may be too heavy and needs to be further lightened with compost, so I did just that and planted a new variety of foxglove a week ago. So far, so good.

From A Modern Herbal: Foxglove: POISON!

“Other names: Witches’ Gloves. Dead Men’s Bells. Fairy’s Glove. Gloves of Our Lady. Bloody Fingers. Virgin’s Glove. Fairy Caps. Folk’s Glove. Fairy Thimbles. (Norwegian) Revbielde. (GermanFingerhut.

Part Used: Leaves.

Habitat: The Common Foxglove of the woods (Digitalis purpurea), perhaps the handsomest of our indigenous plants, is widely distributed throughout Europe and is common as a wild-flower in Great Britain, growing freely in woods and lanes, particularly in South Devon, ranging from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but not occurring in Shetland, or in some of the eastern counties of England.

Needing little soil, it is found often in the crevices of granite walls, as well as in dry hilly pastures, rocky places and by roadsides. Seedling Foxgloves spring up rapidly from recently-turned earth. Turner (1548), says that it grows round rabbit holes freely. The plant will flourish best in well drained loose soil, preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by a wood, give the best results.

DescriptionThe normal life of a Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are formed of numerous, long, thick fibers, persist and throw up flowers for several seasons… (*Not here, always.)

They bloom in the early summer, though the time of flowering differs much, according to the locality.

The flowers are bell-shaped and tubular, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, flattened above, inflated beneath, crimson outside above and paler beneath, the lower lip furnished with long hairs inside and marked with numerous dark crimson spots, each surrounded with a white border. The shade of the flowers varies much, especially under cultivation, sometimes the corollas being found perfectly white.

The Foxglove is a favourite flower of the honey-bee, and is entirely developed by the visits of this insect. Going from flower to flower up the spike, he rubs pollen thus from one blossom on to the cleft stigma of another blossom, and thus the flower is fertilized and seeds are able to be produced. The life of each flower, from the time the bud opens till the time it slips off its corolla, is about six days. An almost incredible number of seeds are produced, a single Foxglove plant providing from one to two million seeds to ensure its propagation. (*But it has to survive long enough to bloom, I must add.)

It is noteworthy that although the flower is such a favourite with bees and is much visited by other smaller insects, who may be seen taking refuge from cold and wet in its drooping blossoms on chilly evenings, yet no animals will browse upon the plant, perhaps instinctively recognizing its poisonous character.

The Foxglove derives its common name from the shape of the flowers resembling the finger of a glove. It was originally Folksglove – the glove of the ‘good folk’ or fairies, whose favourite haunts were supposed to be in the deep hollows and woody dells, where the Foxglove delights to grow. Folksglove is one of its oldest names, and is mentioned in a list of plants in the time of Edward III. Its Norwegian name, Revbielde (Foxbell), is the only foreign one that alludes to the Fox, though there is a northern legend that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox that he might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled among the roosts.

The earliest known form of the word is the Anglo-Saxon foxes glofa (the glove of the fox).

The mottlings of the blossoms of the Foxglove and the Cowslip, like the spots on butterfly wings and on the tails of peacocks and pheasants, were said to mark where the elves had placed their fingers, and one legend ran that the marks on the Foxglove were a warning sign of the baneful juices secreted by the plant, which in Ireland gain it the popular name of ‘Dead Man’s Thimbles.’ In Scotland, it forms the badge of the Farquharsons, as the Thistle does of the Stuarts. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested to Leonhard Fuchs (the well-known German herbalist of the sixteenth century, after whom the Fuchsia has been named) the employment of the Latin adjective Digitalis (from Digitabulum, a thimble) as a designation for the plant, which, as he remarked, up to the time when he thus named it, in 1542, had had no name in either Greek or Latin.

The Foxglove was employed by the old herbalists for various purposes in medicine, most of them wholly without reference to those valuable properties which render it useful as a remedy in the hands of modern physicians. Gerard recommends it to those ‘who have fallen from high places,’ and Parkinson speaks highly of the bruised herb or of its expressed juice for scrofulous swellings, when applied outwardly in the form of an ointment, and the bruised leaves for cleansing for old sores and ulcers. Dodoens (1554) prescribed it boiled in wine as an expectorant, and it seems to have been in frequent use in cases in which the practitioners of the present day would consider it highly dangerous…

Strangely enough, the Foxglove, so handsome and striking in our landscape, is not mentioned by Shakespeare, or by any of the old English poets.

(*I found this strange indeed, considering their lore and beauty.)

The earliest known descriptions of it are those given about the middle of the sixteenth century by Fuchs and Tragus in their Herbals. According to an old manuscript, the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century appear to have frequently made use of it in the preparation of external medicines. Gerard and Parkinson advocate its use for a number of complaints, and later Salmon, in the New London Dispensatory, praised the plant. It was introduced into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1650, though it did not come into frequent use until a century later, and was first brought prominently under the notice of the medical profession by Dr. W. Withering, who in his Acount of the Foxglove, 1785, gave details of upwards of 200 cases, chiefly dropsical, in which it was used.”

Agatha ChristieOf course the highly esteemed Author Agatha Christie used foxglove in one of her mysteries.  From the AGATHA CHRISTIE SITE: “THE HERB OF DEATH: SIR AMBROSE’S DINNER PARTY IS NOT GOING TO PLAN.  FOXGLOVE LEAVES, PICKED EARLIER THAT DAY, HAVE MADE EVERYONE ILL AND LEFT THE UNFORTUNATE SYLVIA DEAD…”

Christie went back to one of her favourite murder methods in this story originally published in 1930 in Storyteller.  It is included in The Thirteen Problems.”

Planting A Fairy Garden


If you lack whimsy and magic in your life, consider enticing fairies to your yard by including the plants they find irresistible.

Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of fairies and they are more than welcome in my garden.  I just hope the cats don’t get them, though I expect they’re clever enough to evade felines and nosy farm dogs. Perhaps they catch a ride with butterflies or bumblebees and soar to safety, or simply hide among the leaves and flowers.

Not too long ago, my youngest niece, Cailin, now seven, aspired to be a fairy when she grew up and often checked her back in the mirror for signs of  sprouting wings.  To her disappointment, none were forthcoming. She still believes ardently in fairies, though, and knows quite a lot about them.  I’ll pass on any questions you might have and share Cailin’s replies. She’s a highly imaginative child with lots of ideas to share.

But back to Fairy gardens, I found much useful information on planting one at this herbal site.   “Some herbs are associated with fairies, the most important one being thyme. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania, the fairy queen, sleeps in a bed of wild thyme growing on a bank.”

*I love thyme and have assorted varieties growing with more or less success in my garden (s) and am forever planting more. You can’t have too much thyme.

“Foxgloves are essential for fairy gardens. According to legend, fairies sleep in the bell-shaped flowers, and wear them as gloves. Other common names for the plant include fairy fingers, fairy thimbles, and fairy cap.”

But of course. I just have to get the darn plants to grow here again.

“The purple foxglove is a biennial. Its blooms range in color from white and cream to pink and purple. There may be attractive dark spots in the throats of the bell-shaped flowers. There are perennial foxgloves as well, including the yellow foxglove.

Foxgloves often self-sow and prefer cool weather. Those in warm climates may want to grow the quick-blooming variety, called ‘Foxy.’ This will produce flowers the very first year from seed.”

*But they are not nearly as stunning as the varieties you have to wait for.

Another herb that is essential in the fairy garden is saffron. Fairies are especially fond of this culinary herb/spice for flavoring cakes and dyeing cloth. Other recommended plants are rosemary and roses. Roses are much-loved by fairies for their beauty and fragrance.”

Clap if you believe in fairies~

tiny fairy baby

Herbal Lore~Foxglove and Fairies


*These foxgloves are growing in a garden in Colonial Williamsburg.

Foxglove, also known as Digitalis: I’ve grown this beautiful flower/herb and used to have a spectacular stand of foxglove but they all died out one winter and I’ve had the dickens of a time getting new plants established.  Because foxglove is a biennial, it has to grow one season and survive the winter, the tricky part, and then resurrects the following spring and blooms in late spring/early summer.  If you’re fortunate the plants reseed and perpetuate themselves.  If not, you must begin again.  But it’s well worth growing.  I suspect our soil may be too heavy for foxglove and needs to be further lightened with compost.

From A Modern Herbal: Foxglove: POISON!

Other names: Witches’ Gloves. Dead Men’s Bells. Fairy’s Glove. Gloves of Our Lady. Bloody Fingers. Virgin’s Glove. Fairy Caps. Folk’s Glove. Fairy Thimbles. (Norwegian) Revbielde. (German) Fingerhut.

Part Used: Leaves.

Habitat: The Common Foxglove of the woods (Digitalis purpurea), perhaps the handsomest of our indigenous plants, is widely distributed throughout Europe and is common as a wild-flower in Great Britain, growing freely in woods and lanes, particularly in South Devon, ranging from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but not occurring in Shetland, or in some of the eastern counties of England.

Needing little soil, it is found often in the crevices of granite walls, as well as in dry hilly pastures, rocky places and by roadsides. Seedling Foxgloves spring up rapidly from recently-turned earth. Turner (1548), says that it grows round rabbit holes freely. The plant will flourish best in well drained loose soil, preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by a wood, give the best results

Description: The normal life of a Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are formed of numerous, long, thick fibers, persist and throw up flowers for several seasons. (*Though not here)

In the first year a rosette of leaves, but no stem, is sent up. In the second year, one or more flowering stems are thrown up, which are from 3 to 4 feet high, though even sometimes more, and bear long spikes of drooping flowers, which bloom in the early summer, though the time of flowering differs much, according to the locality.

The flowers are bell-shaped and tubular, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, flattened above, inflated beneath, crimson outside above and paler beneath, the lower lip furnished with long hairs inside and marked with numerous dark crimson spots, each surrounded with a white border. The shade of the flowers varies much, especially under cultivation, sometimes the corollas being found perfectly white.

The Foxglove is a favourite flower of the honey-bee, and is entirely developed by the visits of this insect. Going from flower to flower up the spike, he rubs pollen thus from one blossom on to the cleft stigma of another blossom, and thus the flower is fertilized and seeds are able to be produced. The life of each flower, from the time the bud opens till the time it slips off its corolla, is about six days. An almost incredible number of seeds are produced, a single Foxglove plant providing from one to two million seeds to ensure its propagation. (*But it has to survive long enough to bloom, I must add.)

It is noteworthy that although the flower is such a favourite with bees and is much visited by other smaller insects, who may be seen taking refuge from cold and wet in its drooping blossoms on chilly evenings, yet no animals will browse upon the plant, perhaps instinctively recognizing its poisonous character.

The Foxglove derives its common name from the shape of the flowers resembling the finger of a glove. It was originally Folksglove – the glove of the ‘good folk’ or fairies, whose favourite haunts were supposed to be in the deep hollows and woody dells, where the Foxglove delights to grow. Folksglove is one of its oldest names, and is mentioned in a list of plants in the time of Edward III. Its Norwegian name, Revbielde (Foxbell), is the only foreign one that alludes to the Fox, though there is a northern legend that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox that he might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled among the roosts.

The earliest known form of the word is the Anglo-Saxon foxes glofa (the glove of the fox).

The mottlings of the blossoms of the Foxglove and the Cowslip, like the spots on butterfly wings and on the tails of peacocks and pheasants, were said to mark where the elves had placed their fingers, and one legend ran that the marks on the Foxglove were a warning sign of the baneful juices secreted by the plant, which in Ireland gain it the popular name of ‘Dead Man’s Thimbles.’ In Scotland, it forms the badge of the Farquharsons, as the Thistle does of the Stuarts. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested to Leonhard Fuchs (the well-known German herbalist of the sixteenth century, after whom the Fuchsia has been named) the employment of the Latin adjective Digitalis (from Digitabulum, a thimble) as a designation for the plant, which, as he remarked, up to the time when he thus named it, in 1542, had had no name in either Greek or Latin.

The Foxglove was employed by the old herbalists for various purposes in medicine, most of them wholly without reference to those valuable properties which render it useful as a remedy in the hands of modern physicians. Gerard recommends it to those ‘who have fallen from high places,’ and Parkinson speaks highly of the bruised herb or of its expressed juice for scrofulous swellings, when applied outwardly in the form of an ointment, and the bruised leaves for cleansing for old sores and ulcers. Dodoens (1554) prescribed it boiled in wine as an expectorant, and it seems to have been in frequent use in cases in which the practitioners of the present day would consider it highly dangerous.

Culpepper says it is of: ‘a gentle, cleansing nature and withal very friendly to nature. The Herb is familiarly and frequently used by the Italians to heal any fresh or green wound, the leaves being but bruised and bound thereon and the juice thereof is also used in old sores, to cleanse, dry and heal them. It has been found by experience to be available for the King’s evil, the herb bruised and applied, or an ointment made with the juice thereof, and so used…. I am confident that an ointment of it is one of the best remedies for a scabby head that is.’

Strangely enough, the Foxglove, so handsome and striking in our landscape, is not mentioned by Shakespeare, or by any of the old English poets.

(*I found this strange indeed, considering their lore and beauty.)

The earliest known descriptions of it are those given about the middle of the sixteenth century by Fuchs and Tragus in their Herbals. According to an old manuscript, the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century appear to have frequently made use of it in the preparation of external medicines. Gerard and Parkinson advocate its use for a number of complaints, and later Salmon, in the New London Dispensatory, praised the plant. It was introduced into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1650, though it did not come into frequent use until a century later, and was first brought prominently under the notice of the medical profession by Dr. W. Withering, who in his Acount of the Foxglove, 1785, gave details of upwards of 200 cases, chiefly dropsical, in which it was used.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Digitalis has been used from early times in heart cases. It increases the activity of all forms of muscle tissue, but more especially that of the heart and arterioles, the all-important property of the drug being its action on the circulation. The first consequence of its absorption is a contraction of the heart and arteries, causing a very high rise in the blood pressure.

After the taking of a moderate dose, the pulse is markedly slowed. Digitalis also causes an irregular pulse to become regular. Added to the greater force of cardiac contraction is a permanent tonic contraction of the organ, so that its internal capacity is reduced, which is a beneficial effect in cases of cardiac dilatation, and it improves the nutrition of the heart by increasing the amount of blood.

Digitalis is an excellent antidote in Aconite poisoning, given as a hypodermic injection.

****

Of course the highly esteemed author Agatha Christie used foxglove in one of her mysteries.  From the Agatha Christie site: “The Herb of Death: Sir Ambrose’s dinner party is not going to plan.  Foxglove leaves, picked earlier that day, have made everyone ill and left the unfortunate Sylvia dead…”

Christie went back to one of her favourite murder methods in this story originally published in 1930 in Storyteller.  It is included in The Thirteen Problems.”