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Permaculture questions about foxglove (digitalis) - what do foxgloves say about the soil?

 
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There are a lot of foxgloves growing wildly on my land. I was wondering if anyone knew if foxgloves are a good indicator of any particular soil conditions?

Are there any other plants that will thrive where foxgloves thrive?

Or anything I can do to improve the soil so that edible weeds grow instead?

And are they a good plant for chop and drop mulching on food plants? Or is the poison from them going to get into the food somehow? Is it safe for me to have a few foxglove plants in the mulch I’m hilling up the potatoes with?

They are very pretty flowers, and the bees love them, but I’ve heard that they can even be poisonous to touch, so I’d like to encourage other plants to grow instead.
 
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They are my favorite flower. Around here, they like moist, shady areas, but I live in Mediterranean climate. I wish they grew like wildflowers. One of the reasons I love them and other poisonous plants is that nothing eats them, not rodents, not deer. I always handle them without gloves and have never had an adverse reaction, although there always seems to be someone sensitive to any particular thing. I've never heard to avoid putting them in compost, so I would expect chop and drop would be fine, as long as you don't accidentally pick up some with a harvest prior to it thoroughly breaking down.
 
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Digitalis is a primary (first tier) succession plant, that means its main job in nature is to get roots into the ground, die and lay over to rot in place thus putting organic matter into the soil surface.
These actions by the primary succession plants are designed to get the ground turned into soil, if enough dead plant material stacks up, then as it rots there will be at least components of humus leaking out as the decomposition nears completion.
 
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Here in PNW, foxglove is a native plant.  It will probably show up if you have enough shade and soil moisture.  I like it.  It's pretty and it biodiversifies the garden.  I do nothing to it.  I have never had so much that it interfered with what I was trying to grow. If it did, I would chop it.  Pretty easy.

john S
PDX OR
 
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We grow berries in many areas populated with foxglove, black and red currants as well as gooseberries.
The soils are always amended initially with a hole and sandy muchly soil and thereafter just a laryer of contractor paper, to define the perimeter beyond the core, and lots of mulch on top of the paper, lots of mulch.
We get so much now we are making Creme de caisse every year!
 
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Besides what's already been mentioned, foxgloves make an excellent cut flower. People plant them on purpose, for that very reason. I know that the toxin will come out in the vase water.

I don't know of other plants absorbing/taking up the toxin from the foxgloves. If you're concerned about it perhaps use them as mulch on ornamental or pollinator beds?

Most animals won't eat them. One year, my flock geese ate all of the foxglove rosettes that came up in my garden. No one died and they had LOTS of other good stuff to eat. I guess they found it tasty or were self-medicating for their hearts?


Also, I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that they indicate acidic soil. My wild ones are usually growing around rhododendrons and fir trees.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes Katie, digitalis grows best in mid range acidic soil that retains moisture well, it tends to prefer some shade but I've seen it do well in full sun to heavy partial shade.
It also indicates a bacteria dominant soil.
 
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I do not have much experience with foxglove, so will defer to those that have already commented.  
 
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hello, i have lots of it growing wild around my place -damp cool spots -mostly ---up on the ditch/hedge mounds ,i used to be paranoid about trying to uproot it all many years ago --as its deadly poison and so on ---well yes it is if you eat it but so are many other garden plants and its not compulsory to do that ---once i started reading up a bit on them i left them be --great for insects like bees and as its known and easily identified by my kids they have never been at risk even from small . Had to do  a bit more on them as it was assigned to me on a growing /horticulture course i was doing ,as one of the weeds i had to do some finding out/background on , and i got tired of reading on nearly every other site or forum the same warning -dont touch --wash your hands and so on ----but there was a few nuggets of information .Its considered a doctor plant and not just for us but for other plants growing nearby and as a companion plant to improve yields of some fruit and berry plants---but i could see why people would be wary of doing this .The only ones i do remove are any i find besides my comfrey and mullin  as its similar enough at first to mix it up if you are careless or in a rush , its used in some herbal natural treatments still ---but i wont try this myself as i lack the training and experience.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I like your thinking Tony, digitalis is not going to harm you by touching it with bare fingers (crushing any part of the plant with your hands and then ingesting the juices (residual residues) by placing your fingers in your mouth can cause serious issues but usually not fatal).

When using digitalis in herbology, you first need to know the concentration of the digitalis in that specific plant, so unless you are growing foxglove for medicine, you probably would not want to use it in a tincture or other preparation.
Unless you have it tested quantitatively so you know the concentration of the active ingredient.

Main things to remember about digitalis (fox glove) the "toxin" is digitalis, an herbal medicine used for regulating heart beat as well as blood pressure in the old days. (there are better, safer medicines available now and they aren't break the bank type drugs for the  most part)

Redhawk
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