Thursday 23 June 2016

How the foxglove got its name

Well the long and the short of it is, no-one knows!  There is a child's story that tells how a wily fox placed the bells of a foxglove flower on his pads like gloves so he could sneak up on his chicken prey silently.  But this is simply that, a fairy tail born from the name foxglove rather than being the reason it was thus named.  And apparently no etymologist has managed to find why the Anglo-Saxon's first named this plant, foxglove but it would appear that Christina Rossetti knew it was all just a story.

The Peacock

The peacock has a score of eyes,
  With which he cannot see;
The cod-fish has a silent sound,
  However that may be;

No dandelions tell the time,
  Although they turn to clocks;
Cat's-cradle does not hold the cat,
  Nor foxglove fit the fox.

Image by Kelly Louise Judd

In June and July the woodland edges and shady paths around our gite in Normandy (Eco-Gites of Lenault) are full of magnificent foxgloves, towering tall as they stretch up for the light.  When we first came here to show the boys their new home (9 years ago this week) we allowed them to go for a walk on their own along the path that starts at our back gate and they came back telling us of the foxgloves they had seen.  Now there are fewer of these magnificent flowers near our gate but many more further along the valley and the reason is to do with light.  Foxgloves prefer the dappled light of woodland edges so when the farmers coppice the hedgerows (cut the trees back to ground level for firewood and then allow them to regrow) the foxgloves thrive in the ensuing dappled light until the trees once again grow tall and the light levels fall too low for the foxgloves.  The farmers coppice on a cycle of several years so there are always a paths with the right light levels to see foxgloves aplenty.

Foxgloves are loved by bees and there is something wonderful about the muffled sound of a bee feeding hungrily on the nectar deep within a foxglove bell ... look carefully in the photo below and you can see a bee.  So foxgloves are another plant I could have added to my recent post - 7 best bee attracting plants.

As well as foxgloves along out paths I have this one in the area I am developing as a wild flower meadow.  I hope it will like the shade afforded by the Bramley apple tree to its right. (an import form the UK as the French don't grow Bramleys ... and do not know what they are missing!)

This post was inspired by another foxglove post.  Thank you Kriss from Wild About Here for the inspiration.



  1. The fox wearing the flowers as gloves is a nice story, I'm going to go with that :) Patterns on foxglove flowers are so beautiful. This year we are growing them for the first time; the bees absolutely love them and they stand so tall and proud.

  2. I love foxgloves- my mum and dad have them in their garden and they are my favourite. I had never once thought to question how they got the name- I love the children's story idea though. Thanks for joining the #weekendblogshare

  3. Hi Rosie, how beautiful it must look when the foxgloves are in full bloom. The colour variations are really pretty too. Christina Rossetti certainly wasn't fooled by any story she heard.

    Bet your wild flower meadow will be the perfect place to spot butterflies and bees.


  4. They really are amazing and you have captured them so beautifully. Lovely to learn about the name too, even though no one knows why it's called that. #MySundayPhoto.

  5. It's fascinating trying to find out the origin of the flower's name. Love the fox wearing gloves. They're really so beautiful when you find them in the wild growing rather majestically in the dappled light.

  6. Stella and I found loads of foxgloves growing wild in the woods at the weekend; I don't remember ever seeing so many looking so very lovely. As we carried on we heard that familiar scream that foxes make (the sound so perfect for dark woods in horror films!) and I wondered then if there was a connection, now I must wonder some more!

  7. What a lovely post and thank you very much for sharing with us at #ChasingNature. I love foxgloves and love to watch the bees feed on the sweet nectar of the flower. That poem was so lovely too! Hope to see you back next week as this was a joy to read and the photos were beautiful.

    1. Thank you and I am glad you like it and hopefully I will be linking next week too. Great linky idea!

  8. Such an interesting post! I've always loved foxgloves. My mum used to plant them in the garden, so I grew up around the beautiful flowers.
    I loved the poem as well! #ChasingNature

    1. We are so lucky to have so many foxgloves around our local Normandy paths. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  9. all i know about Foxgloves are that they are very poisonous to humans, cats and dogs #animaltales


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