So, today's “Plant of the Day” is Digitalis purpurea L; the “Purple Foxglove” or in German “Roter Fingerhut. This species is from the genus Digitalis of the Plantaginaceae family. In old literature, this plant still belongs to the Scrophulariaceae.
D. pupurea - habitus
It's a tall plant with heights between 50 and 120 centimetres. The leaves are located into a rosette. Each leaf is laceolate with a simple edge. The ventral side is felty and grey, the upper side is bright-green with raised field. The shoot-axis is also felty.
D. pupurea - leaves (garden breed)
D. purpurea - leaves (wild form)
However, the most distinctive character of Digitalis purpurea L. is its inflorescence. It's a simple raceme, which consists of many cygomorphic flowers. Each flower has five purple petals, which are fused together to a long tube. The green sepals are free and form a small goblet. Another conspicuous character of this species are the white spots with a black core on the inside of the bottom petals. Some individuals have white petals (especially breeds).
Originally, D. purpurea is native to Europe but also to Morocco. It can also be found in North- and South America as Neophyte. The species prefers acid soils and sunny to semi-bright places to grow. So you can find it for example at woodcutting areas, clearings or waysides, which are its natural habitats. But because of its beautiful flowers, it's also a very popular garden plant. I've found also some indivudals at ruderal places.
D. purpurea - flowers
Digitalis purpurea L. is a very toxic plant. This species has its name from the chemicals Digitoxin and Digoxin. Both are very effective cardiac glycosides, which can cause both a acceleration or a slowdown of the heart rate. So, the ingredients of Digitalis may cause a deadly heart attack, if you eat flowers or leaves. On the other Hand, the ingredients are also used to make medicaments against heart failure.
D. purpurea - inflorescense
D. purpurea is also a mythological significance, especially in Ireland. Celtic people believes, that the tubular flowers were used as hat by elves. They also believed, that evil elves gave the flowers to foxes for their feet, so they could plunder the chicken coops silently. This legend gave the species also its English name.