The little white or purple cups that hang in long rows on my stem are just like little thimbles.
Look – you could fit them over your fingertips perfectly.
In England they call me ‘foxglove’. People tell all sorts of stories about the origins of that name.
Some think that it comes from ‘folk’s glove’ – a glove for fairy folk.
Sometimes their magic potions seemed to suddenly cure something, so physicians looked into my active ingredients. They discovered digoxin and digitoxin – sugar compounds – in my leaves.
Very toxic substances, but in small amounts they can have a beneficial effect on people with irregular heartbeats and even weak hearts.
I may be irresistible, but – don’t eat me!
Also, in some cases a foxglove-induced intoxication can cause disturbances in sight, in which your vision blurs and – very rarely! – everything looks yellow.
So it might be the case that the fiery yellows in van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889) and Wheatfield with crows (1890) have something to do with an overdose of foxglove.
Murder by poison is as old as time. And plants like me, that are lethal in high concentrations, have often played a leading role in these murders.
One of the most famous serial killers in America, Charles ‘the angel of death’ Cullen, had also discovered my toxic side.
Charles was a nurse who worked at several different hospitals and nursing homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He suffered from a psychological disorder and was known for his ‘erratic’ behaviour.
And guess what he used to kill most of his victims? Digoxin, or me!
Hi, my name is Foxglove. Do you want to know where my name comes from?
2020, 40 X 30 CM