January 21, 2020

Deep in the Heart

Digitalis lanata - Grecian foxglove

Janine Pineo Photo | Digitalis lanata – Grecian foxglove growing in The Heirloom Garden of Maine in Center Montville

Digitalis lanata may look rather innocuous but this foxglove packs a punch due to the compound within its attractive package. Grecian foxglove or woolly foxglove is the source for Digoxin, a cardiac drug usually used to treat heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. All parts of the plant are poisonous because of the concentration of Digitalin (the compound used to create Digoxin). The symptoms of poisoning are pretty dramatic: nausea, vomiting, severe headache, dilated pupils, problems with eyesight, and convulsions at the worst level of toxicity. Even a tiny amount of the plant ingested or simply through transference via the skin (wear gloves!) can be deadly. It also is a killer of animals if the plant gets into their feed. In Minnesota, Digitalis lanata is considered a noxious weed as it replaces desirable plants quite easily, specifically through its prolific seed production. The plant originated in central and southern Europe and was brought over to North America as an ornamental. In some places, it has escaped cultivation and thus prompted the concerns since it contains such a powerful compound that could be deadly if an unsuspecting person were to come in contact with it.

Photographed during Open Farm Day at The Heirloom Garden of Maine on July 22, 2012.