What Is Digitalis Lanata?

O. Parker

Digitalis lanata is a biennial or perennial plant species in the Scrophulariaceae plant family. It can be both a poison and a medicine, depending on how it is used. Digitalis lanata can be cultivated for its bell-shaped flowers, but let loose, it can become a noxious weed. The species is commonly called Grecian foxglove and is related to common foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea.

The diuretic properties of Digitalis lanata may be helpful for people with liver disease.
The diuretic properties of Digitalis lanata may be helpful for people with liver disease.

The plant grows 2 to 5 feet (about 60 to 150 cm tall) with an erect stalk that is covered with fine hairs. The oblong leaves grow from the fleshy center stalk. Bell-shaped flowers bloom along the stalk from late spring into mid summer. Digitalis lanata flowers vary in color from creamy white to pale brown.

Seed pods develop in fall after the flowers fade. One of the methods the plant species uses for effective propagation is to develop seed pods that cling to passing animals and humans. To accomplish this, the seed pods develop barbs or hooks that attach to fir and clothing. It is an effective method of self-propagation, and one that has earned Digitalis lanata a place on the list of noxious and invasive weeds. In order to prevent this invasive species from spreading, it is important to cut plants before the seed pods develop.

This foxglove grows best in a spot in full sun with loamy soil and good drainage. It can, however tolerate a variety of soil conditions, including rocky soil and heavy clay. Seasonally or consistently wet environments are not well-suited for Digitalis lanata, as this plant is prone to crown rot.

Propagation from seed in spring is a reliable way to grow Digitalis lanata. The seeds take two to to four weeks to germinate at 68°F (about 20°C). They can be sown as soon as the ground thaws in a prepared garden bed. The seeds can also be sown indoors in a seed flat in late winter. As soon as the last frost date has passed, the seedlings can then be transplanted outside.

Medicinally, Digitalis lanata has been used as a treatment for heart conditions. It is thought to increase the steadiness of the heartbeat without stressing the heart and is considered a general heart tonic. It is also used internally as a diuretic. Though this plant has recognized medicinal benefits, it is also poisonous and should be used only under the supervision of a medical professional or a trained herbalist.

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