These flowers look very similar to the snapdragons, but don’t let their appearance fool you because this is an entirely different flower! You read that right! When you take a closer look, foxgloves are definitely close relatives to snapdragons, but they are unalike in many ways.
For one, the meaning and symbolism behind foxgloves and snapdragons differ from each other! Aside from that, foxgloves have many uses such as being a popular ornamental and traditional folkloric medicine.
The foxgloves’ bright colors also have something to do with its meaning. For example, a yellow or white foxglove flower means growth or confidence. A purple or pink one represents determination and hope. While a blue foxglove symbolizes peace.
History of the Foxglove Plant
Foxglove blooms were first made popular in the 12th century and have a very rich history. They were defined as biennial or perennial erect herbs with showy racemes of tubular or bell shaped blooms. It’s more of a biennial plant meaning it grows fully in the first year then the second year is when the first bell shaped flowers bloom.
The flowers belong to the genus Digitalis of the Plantaginaceae or Snapdragon family. The genus name Digitalis comes from the Latin word digitus meaning a finger. If the scientific name of the flower and Digitalis genus doesn’t ring a bell yet – well, it is referring to the flower’s shape! Its overall floral shape resembles fingers but in this case the fingers on a fox’s paws!
The common name foxglove comes from the Anglo Saxon word “fox’s glew”. It can also go by many other names such as fairy folk’s gloves or fairy’s gloves, fairy or foxglove bells, dead man’s bells or dead men’s bells, witch’s gloves, and lady’s gloves.
They are native to some regions of Europe and the Mediterranean as well as in the Canary Islands. It can also be found in the temperate zones of Northwestern Africa.
There are about 20 different types of amazing foxgloves wherein some are garden favorites. These include the common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), the Yellow foxgloves (Digitalis grandiflora), the Spanish foxglove (Digitalis thapsi), Rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea), and the Grecian foxglove (Digitalis lanata).
Here are some interesting facts about foxgloves. Foxgloves grow best under full sun conditions and well draining soil. Start seeing foxgloves bloom during late spring to early summer! So plant these babies in the right place and wait as the eye catching tall spires of flowers open.
Symbolism of Foxglove Blossoms
Foxgloves symbolize something very close to what an actual fox symbolizes. Foxes as animals are known to be very sly and mischievous – something of the same sort goes for a Foxglove blossom.
In the language of flowers, the Foxglove symbolizes a treacherous magnificence – in a way it speaks the message of you are beautiful but careless!
The Digitalis flowers are also associated with mystical figures such as the zodiac sign Taurus and the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus.
During medieval times, foxgloves were symbolic of the Virgin Mary. It was said that folks growing foxgloves in medieval gardens dedicated the flowers to Mother Mary.
Meaning of Foxglove Flowers
A foxglove flower has a very intriguing etymological meaning. In the most basic sense, foxglove flowers mean positive and negative energies of harm and healing. Something quite out of the ordinary for a floral meaning.
Don’t worry about that intriguing meaning because there are a whole lot of other symbolic meanings behind this flower! From another perspective of understanding, a foxglove reminds one of youthfulness and stateliness. It is also associated with insincerity, falsehood, and selfish wishes – this is because of the attributes of a sly fox!
Although the message this flower bears quite a catch – be alert, trust your instincts, and stay grounded!
Foxglove flowers bloom in many different colors, here’s the symbolic meaning of each color:
What do White Foxgloves Mean?
A white foxglove flower is quite special. White foxglove flowers symbolize purity and convey the meaning of openness. Having been more open, these white flowers will also allow more growth and creativity into everyday life.
What does a Blue Foxglove Bloom Symbolize?
A blue Foxglove flower symbolizes peace and tranquility. Achieving such a state also denotes security.
What does a Pink Foxglove Floret Indicate?
Pretty in pink is not only what this flower means! In a way, pink foxglove flowers indicate a newfound hope and a mix of positive feelings. It’s such a beautiful cluster of pink flowers!
What do Purple Foxgloves Represent?
Wisdom and a deeper sense of spirituality are represented by a purple foxglove flower in bloom. In a more spiritual tone, purple foxglove flowers also embody inspiration and determination.
What does a Yellow Foxglove Flower Symbolize?
Brightly yellow flowers symbolize both booming confidence and unwavering trust. In what aspect? Well, the confidence and trust in all things good and bad!
What is the Cultural Significance of a Foxglove Bloom?
In the Victorian language of flowers, foxglove blossoms were regarded as beacons of insincerity.
Aside from being associated with foxes, these flowers were also associated with fairies. Just like a fox – fairies are just as mischievous yet magical. Such flowers were beacons for fairies although with extreme caution! Beware because these flowers can stop your heart from beating in its tracks!
In ancient Roman times, a foxglove was believed to be a flower sacred to the goddess Flora of ancient Greece. It was said that when Flora touched Hera on her breasts and belly with a foxglove, she would be impregnated with the god Mars.
What are the Folktales Associated with a Foxglove Floret?
The foxgloves famously got its name from this certain folktale. According to the story, foxes wear the flowers while on the hunt to warn other animals about hunters and hounds. They wore the finger-like blossoms on each paw to silence their footsteps for better stealth.
Some say that after the hunt, the flowers were removed – scattering the foxglove seeds. After some time these seeds sprang in bloom in what they believed were areas very close to the den where foxes raise their young!
In modern times, people believed that picking foxglove flowers was unlucky and can bring bad luck. Other legends, it was said that dew collected from foxgloves were used to communicate with fairies.
For Scottish folk, it was custom for mothers to strew foxglove leaves onto babies’ cradles for protection from bewitchment and evil women’s magic. A similar tradition in Shropshire is done wherein the leaves were placed inside children’s shoes.
There is another legend in the West Country which tells why foxgloves bob and sway on windy and still days. The flowers bend and sway to all the magical fairy folk that pass by.
In a Welsh myth, the story spoke of Rhiwallon who was a physician struck by a beautiful maiden on a rowing boat and disappeared each time into the mist. Rhiwallon returned to the lake each evening hoping to get a glimpse of the maiden.
He sought the advice of a wise man and he told Rhiwallon to leave crumbs of cheese for her. The cheese was a great idea because it did bring the maiden back and decided to marry Rhiwallon. She then gave birth to three sons.
Once the youngest was an adult, the maiden rolled into the misty lake and returned with a magic box. She instructed Rhiwallon to strike her three times to release her back into the mist forever. Instead of striking her, Rhiwallon tapped her thrice on the shoulder and the mist shrouded her, taking her back forever.
In the magic box, the maiden left a list of medicinal herbs her sons could use. One of those herbs was the foxglove.
What is the Spiritual Meaning of a Foxglove Blossom?
A Digitalis flower has the spiritual capacity of gently cleansing your nature – purging and healing your body inside and out. It invites the courage deep within to bolster natural and clean energy into the mind, body, and spirit.
Such blossoms also aid in the healing, supporting, and strengthening of the physical and energy heart – which wanes from past traumas. It is a protector and guardian from unwanted evil and darkness in life.
What does a Foxglove Floral Tattoo Symbolize?
With what this flower means and symbolizes, it is not the top choice for a floral tattoo. But do not judge too hasty because the symbolism behind this tattoo is nothing like the meaning behind the flower itself!
If you would like to get a tattoo of this flower, do know that it will symbolize good health and healing. Additionally, it is also an embodiment of eternal youth and timeless beauty!
Uses of Foxglove Plants
Foxgloves are a garden ornamental favorite because of how they attract bees and hummingbirds – the perfect floral pollinators! Surprisingly though, these flowers bear no scent.
It can also be decorated as a potted plant indoors or outdoors as well as a cut fresh flower in bouquet and vase arrangements. It’s actually a popular flower for wedding bouquets! But beware as this flower has a toxic nature making it an extremely poisonous plant.
There was a folktale about the poisonous nature yet medicinal properties of the foxgloves. Many believed they were medical herbs used in traditional medicine during the 18th century. It was Dr. William who discovered powerful chemicals such as the compound digitalin in the flowers that were used to treat heart conditions and heart rate problems caused by high blood pressure.
In China, a traditional cultural practice of drying the flowers into a decoction was used as a uterine stimulant. It also included antibacterial properties which were said to be effective in treating nephritis. A Celtic practice in Europe also traditionally used the leaves as a cardiac glycoside. Meanwhile, in the British Isles, such practice was used to treat tumors, ulcers, and headaches.
Although these are folkloric, the plant is still very toxic hence it is advised never to use it for medicinal purposes. Ingesting foxgloves may cause blurred vision and even death. It’s the very same reason why farmers hate having the flowers in their chicken coop – the plant is poison for the livestock!
~ image source: depositphotos/swilphotos