Appearance▲ Back to topDigitalis purpurea is an herbaceous biennial or short lived perennial plant. The leaves are spirally arranged, simple, 10-35 cm long and 5-12 cm broad, and are covered with gray-white pubescent and glandular hairs. The foliage forms a tight rosette at ground level in the first year.
The flowering stem develops in the second year, typically 1 to 2 m tall, sometimes longer. The flowers are arranged in a showy, terminal, elongated cluster, and each flower is tubular and pendent. The flowers are typically purple but some plants, especially those under cultivation, may be pink, rose, yellow, or white. The corolla is spotted inside the bottom of the tube. The flowering period is early summer, sometimes with additional flower stems developing later in the season.
The fruit is a capsule which splits open at maturity to release the numerous tiny (0.1-0.2 mm) seeds.
Naming▲ Back to topThere are three subspecies:
- Digitalis purpurea subsp. purpurea – most of Europe
- Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii – Iberia
- Digitalis purpurea subsp. mariana – Iberia
Uses▲ Back to topThe plant is sometimes grown in gardens. In suitable conditions it generally seeds itself in partial shade, and can become a minor weed. The pollen contains up to 80% digitalis and this pollen can be found on neighboring plants stamens when they are in bloom. This effect can cause accidental digitalis exposure if the exposed stamens of other plants are consumed in any way by humans. During the peak pollen production, in some areas the pollen floats heavily in the air and will stick to exposed surfaces.
Selected forms, either for colour or for dwarf habit, are sold as potted plants.
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