Thursday’s Feature: Digitalis x mertonensis

I’ve said it before that I’m not much of a joiner and I’m far too disorganized to keep up with most weekly or monthly memes, but I’m going to give this one a try.  Kimberley over at Cosmos and Cleome has brought back the “Thursday feature” and it’s a chance to highlight any one particular plant which caught your fancy in the past week.  This week among all the wonders of June a foxglove has caught my eye and it’s just a little bit different than your average foxglove.

digitalis mertonensis

Fuzzy leaves, a strawberry color, and a 3-4 foot bloom height are trademarks of Merton’s foxglove and/or the strawberry foxglove (Digitalis mertonensis).

The strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis) is a hybrid formed by the joining of your regular tall, purple (biennial) Digitalis purpurea and your shorter, mellow yellow (perennial) Digitalis grandiflora.  The offspring was a tetraploid child with perennial-ish tendencies, larger flowers, and a rose color that holds just a little bit of yellow (you can always count on me for these vague made up color descriptions!)  They come true from seed, and although most sources recommend moist, fertile, well-drained, soil in part shade, mine suffer along just fine in a dry sunny spot which also grows sunflowers well enough.

I noticed a few seedlings earlier in the year and should really round them up for a more suitable home.  This foxglove is one which seems to do well enough in my garden (unlike the common foxglove, D. purpurea which rots away in our winters) and deserves more respect than I give it.  Maybe this summer I’ll finally start up some of those other Digitalis seeds which are sitting in the seedbox, and we could have a family reunion with all the foxglove cousins and kin.  I think I’d like that.

As I’m sure you know foxgloves (Digitalis) are extremely poisonous and their heart slowing toxin was the inspiration for the digitalin drug group.  I’m not the one to go on about medicinal uses, but if your concerns lie in the area of its toxicity please put that one to rest.  Apparently some brave soul has found it to be extremely bitter, and a side effect of ingestion is vomiting which conveniently removes the poisons.  Give this one a try I say, and also give Kimberley’s site a visit to see what other gardeners are finding interesting this week.  Enjoy!