Credenhill Park Wood seems to be a good place for foxgloves. They line the paths, cling to the banks of the ramparts and speckle the grazing area purple.
Foxgloves were used in folk remedies for Dropsy, a quaint name for the oedema caused by congestive heart failure; unfortunately the poisonous brew also caused vomiting. Around 1775 Dr William Withering did some experiments with this concoction and extracted the beneficial constituent part of the foxglove, which we now know as digitalin – a drug that strengthens the heartbeat.
As one might expect there is much folklore concerning foxgloves: fairies give the flowers to foxes to wear on their feet so they can raid chicken coups quietly; the bell-like flowers ring to warn foxes that hunters are coming; if you hear a foxglove bell ring then death is imminent and so on.
Bumblebees are one of the main foxglove pollinators, they are particularly attracted to the colour purple and the shape of the flower along with the speckled pattern have evolved to form the perfect landing strip for them. As the bee enters the flower for the nectar, pollen rubs off onto the fluffy bee which is then transferred to another flower. Dominic Clarke et al, writing in “Science” have shown that flowers and bees have electrical charges and it seems that when a flower has been visited it changes its charge, the bee recognises this and so doesn’t waste its time visiting that flower as it knows there will be no nectar for it and the plant does not require its pollination services. How efficient is that?
So to sum up, the foxglove helps humans with dicky tickers, aids foxes in the raiding of hen houses, heralds the Grim Reaper, feeds bees, generally prettifies the place and is one of the few flowers I can recognise and name without resorting to a book (or Google for you young ‘uns).