Thursday, 26 May 2016

Don't anger the Fairies

Blossoms and bluebells have gone, and it's time for a new pretender to the throne here in the gardens at Dolores Delargo Towers...

From the Gardens Ablaze site:
The alternate names for Foxglove give a glimpse into how embedded this plant is in Fairy and Magick folklore, and includes Fairy Petticoats, Fairy Thimbles, Fairy Fingers, Fairy Weed, Fox Mittens, Witches Bells, Witches Thimbles, Folks Gloves, and Fox Bells. Indeed, the name Foxglove itself is derived from a legend that says that evil Fairies gave a fox the flower petals to put on his toes so that he could rob the chicken house without being heard - thus the name "fox glove."

Fairy gardens have become quite popular, and Foxglove is a must-have for attracting Fairies. Fairies supposedly play within the flowers, and each spot inside marks the spot where a Fairy has touched the surface. Placed in front of the house, Foxglove is believed to protect the occupants from evil influences. Picking Foxglove from the garden and bringing it inside is believed to anger the Fairies. Placed in a charm or talisman, a piece of Foxglove flower is believed to keep one inside protective Fairy light.

I do love a bit of "Fairy light", don't you? But the foxglove's usefulness goes further than folklore...

From "Molecule of the Month":
Digitalis is an example of a cardio-active or cardiotonic drug, in other words a steroid which has the ability to exert a specific and powerful action on the cardiac muscle in animals, and has been used in the treatment of heart conditions ever since its discovery in 1775.

The discovery of digitalis is accredited to the Scottish doctor William Withering, and makes for quite an interesting historical story. While working as a physician in Staffordshire in the 18th Century, his girlfriend got him interested in plants and botany - so much so, that in 1776 he published a huge treatise, whose title begins 'A botanical arrangement of all the vegetables growing in Great Britain...' and goes on for a further 24 lines.

In 1775, one of his patients came to him with a very bad heart condition and since Withering had no effective treatment for him, thought he was going to die. The patient, being an independent type, went instead to a local gypsy, took a secret herbal remedy - and promptly got much better!

When Withering heard about this, he became quite excited and searched for the gypsy throughout the by-ways of Shropshire. Eventually he found her, and demanded to know what was in the secret remedy. After much bargaining, the gypsy finally told her secret. The herbal remedy was made from a whole concoction of things, but the active ingredient was the Purple Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). The potency of digitalis extract had been known since the dark ages, when it had been used as a poison for the mediaeval 'trial by ordeal', and also used as an external application to promote the healing of wounds.

So Withering tried out various formulations of digitalis plant extracts on 163 patients, and found that if he used the dried, powdered leaf, he got amazingly successful results. He introduced its use officially in 1785.
Is it any wonder we are obsessed with plants?


  1. What an interesting read. Why do don't have a The Flower Gardening and Gin Cocktail Hour show here on our HGTV is beyond me.

    1. I'm up for a gig presenting such a show... Jx

    2. I'd need to wear a "Say Something Hat"... Jx

  2. Just this spring I had a volunteer foxglove spring up in the middle of the garden path. All crushed gravel, it couldn't be any less beneficial soil, but the foxglove is one of the biggest I've ever seen.

    1. They are famous for liking really poor soil - much like poppies and other so-called "weeds" - and put on a fantastic show wherever they pop up. Jx


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