Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - April 21, 2013

From: England, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Non-Natives, User Comments, Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Foxglove safety from England
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, regarding safety of foxgloves grown near edible plants - foxgloves are good companion plants for vegetables, in case of root vegetables they improve their storage life and quality. Foxgloves protect tomatoes and potatetoes from diseases. Of course I would wash anything I eat that grew next to foxgloves under running water in case some pollen reach my food.

ANSWER:

Thank you for your comments. We get a lot of questions concerning whether other plants are safe around their foxgloves. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants will be grown. In view of that and the fact that you are obviously a gardener in England, we believe we are talking about two different genera of plants.

From the  Nova Scotia Museum The Poison Plant Patch discusses the true poisonous plant Digitalis purpurea. This plant is in the Scrophulariaceae family. There are 26 plants in our Native Plant Database with the common name "foxglove," frequently accompanied by the word "false." Sixteen of these are in the Agalinis genus, 7 in the Aureolaria genus and 3 in the Penstemon genus. All of these are also in the Scrophulariaceae family, but there are no members of the Digitalis (foxglove) genus in our Native Plant Database. The genus Penstemon has visual characteristics very similar to Digitalis. These native plants are Penstemon cobaea (Wild foxglove), Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon) and Penstemon fendleri (Fendler's penstemon). It would seem likely that some early botanist, possibly European, called attention to that similarity in naming Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon).

We are aware that many non-native and poisonous selections of Digitalis plants are sold in North America. They are beautiful flowers, evoking the traditional English garden, much admired in the United States. If they have only the common name on the labels and no scientific name, it would be very difficult for a lay person to avoid purchasing the plant. There is little Mr. Smarty Plants can do except remind everyone to investigate carefully every plant for sale BEFORE purchasing it.

One final note, your mentions of using Digitalis in growing vegetables is still out of our range of expertise. Most edible plants considered vegetables are either non-native to North America or so extensively hybridized that recognizing the origin and nativity of the plant is difficult to impossible.

 

From the Image Gallery


Wild foxglove
Penstemon cobaea

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

Fendler's penstemon
Penstemon fendleri

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native Ginkgo biloba in New York
June 19, 2009 - A female Ginkgo tree dropped its seeds. Now, I have seedlings all over the yard. I don't want more female Ginkgo trees. They create putrid Ginkgo seeds. However, I would like more male Ginkgo trees. ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive, poisonous Chinese yam
October 16, 2005 - I found a vine in my yard [central Indiana] which I believe is Dioscorea oppositiflora and I wanted first to confirm my identification and second to find out about edibility [especially of the airborn...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Japanese maple seedling in Rotterdam NY
August 09, 2010 - In the first couple days of August, I discovered a baby Japanese Maple growing against the wall of my storage shed, a short distance from a neighbor's full grown Japanese Maple. I transplanted this 5...
view the full question and answer

Non-native wedelia and dayflower in Lihue HI
September 03, 2009 - I have wedelia as ground covering, day flower or commelinaceae takes over. What can I use or spray to rid myself of the day flower problem?
view the full question and answer

Seeking information on Crateeva asiatica, non-native herbal medicine
September 29, 2007 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I had a look at your website in hope of finding information about the plant Crateeva asiatica. Could you kindly help me to locate the information for the same?
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.