En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Can foxglove poison be transmitted to the soil and taken up by another plant

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - May 29, 2012

From: Alton, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: General Botany, Poisonous Plants
Title: Can foxglove poison be transmitted to the soil and taken up by another plant
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, Recently I discovered a Foxglove that had come up after being planted 2 or 3 yrs ago. Next to it I have some medicinal Feverfew growing. (They were so close together I suspect they were sharing root space.) Is it possible for the Foxglove to have passed its poisons on my Feverfew? If there is a remote possibility I will pull up the Feverfew, to ensure our safety. Thanks for your time in answering.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants assumes you mean Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove), a native of Europe, which is highly toxic.  However, if you mean Penstemon cobaea (Wild foxglove) or Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove beardtongue), they are not on any toxic plant list that I have checked.  There are several species of Agalinis that are called "false foxglove" and none of these appears on any of the toxic plant databases either.  Any Penstemon or the Agalinis would be fine growing with your feverfew.

There are plants that produce chemicals that can affect other plants, either beneficially or harmfully.   This is called allelopathy and, generally, the effect is associated with competition between plants and inhibiting the growth of other plants. The allelopathic chemicals may affect the target plant by leaching into the soil from fallen leaves or fruit or they may be exuded by the plants' roots. The classic example is the allelopathic effect of walnuts which were known as early as Roman times to kill or otherwise inhibit the growth of other plants near them.  Not all plants release chemicals into the soil and I could find no evidence that Digitalis purpurea does.  Plants certainly take up mineral and chemical compounds from the soil where they grow and are known to take up toxic substances such as lead, arsenic and mercury.  However, I can't really find evidence that a plant such as Digitalis purpurea exudes any of its toxins into the soil and, if it does, that Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew) would be capable of taking up enough of the toxin to be harmful.  You might feel safer about using the feverfew, however, if you moved it to another spot in your garden and leave the purple foxglove growing where it is.

 

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Vine non-toxic to alpacas and dogs from Fowler CA
June 29, 2012 - We have alpacas and would like to plant a flowering vine on a backyard fence that adjoins the pasture. We live in Central California so we have many hot days during the summer and would like a plan...
view the full question and answer

What tree berries causes blisters in PA?
July 22, 2009 - This summer my family was playing with some berries picked from a tree in our backyard. They would place them in their mouths and shoot them through homemade pea-shooters. Shortly after everyone beg...
view the full question and answer

Are Chilean Mesquite pods poisonous to dogs?
July 12, 2010 - Are chilean Mesquite tree pods poisonous to dogs?
view the full question and answer

Shrubs not toxic to cattle in NJ
December 09, 2013 - I am working to rejuvenate the hedgerows on a farm in New Jersey by removing invasive plants and planting native shrubs. How do I find out which native shrubs are toxic to cattle and should not be pl...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating skunk cabbage in Troy, NY
May 19, 2009 - My yard is overgrown with skunk cabbage. My question is how do I get rid of it?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center