This attractive flower grows wild all over the UK and can be seen growing along hedgerows and in woodland clearings. Foxgloves are wild, but they also look great in the garden, especially when grown in beautiful ornamental pots.
Foxgloves are known for their bright pink bell-shaped flowers although they are sometimes seen in white or purple and they are also remarkably easy to grow, making them a favourite for the garden enthusiast.
You may already have Foxgloves in your life, or you may be thinking of growing some of these beautiful wildflowers and wondering… are Foxgloves Poisonous to touch? You may have heard loads of horror stories saying how dangerous they are, and they may be true, but they are not all bad, are they?
Are Foxgloves Poisonous to Touch?
Foxgloves can be poisonous to touch and many people experience skin irritation or severe allergic reactions after handling them. An equal number of people feel no ill effect at all after touching foxgloves, but that does not make them safe as the toxins can be transferred into the body through open wounds or if you rub your eyes.
We always advise wearing gloves when handling them but if you do touch them by mistake, wash your hands immediately. It is better to be safe than sorry!
What are Foxgloves?
Foxgloves (Digitalis) are biennial or short-lived perennial flowers that bloom throughout the summer months. They are a haven for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies due to the volume of sweet nectar that they produce.
Digitalis purpurea is not the only species of foxglove (As of 2017, Plants of the World Online recognises the following 27 species and a number of hybrids – Wikipedia) but purpurea is the most common.
Foxgloves tubular flowers all grow from the central stem or spike and they grow in well-drained slightly acidic soil and do well in partial shade especially in hotter climates.
Foxgloves are a native species in Europe and North Africa and although they have naturalised in North America, over there they are considered an invasive species.
What Toxins do Foxgloves Contain?
Foxgloves contain Digoxin which is a cardiac glycoside and in modern-day medicine, this toxin has been refined to make powerful cardiac medicines (Digitalin).
The toxins are present throughout foxgloves (including roots and seeds) even whilst they are growing, and they can be particularly dangerous if ingested.
What Happens If I Touch Foxgloves?
If you touch foxgloves, you should immediately wash your hands as the toxins can be absorbed through the skin and cause anaphylaxis (allergic reaction). Even if your skin is not prone to irritation caused by foxgloves, the toxins that are present in the plant can easily be transferred to your eyes or mouth if you are not careful.
Washing your hands with warm soapy water will remove the toxins and ensure that you do not get any of the toxins in places where you do not want them.
What To Do If Someone Eats Foxgloves?
If someone eats foxgloves, or mistakenly brews a tea from the plant, they should immediately seek medical attention as even the smallest amount of foxglove ingested can be fatal.
Foxgloves are extremely potent when ingested and there can be all sorts of symptoms of poisoning.
What are the Symptoms of Foxglove Poisoning?
Foxglove poisoning is known as Digitalism and the toxins can enter the body through absorption or ingestion.
Foxglove poisoning can play havoc with the heart and can cause an irregular heartbeat, either making it too fast or too slow depending on your heart health.
Other symptoms of foxglove ingestion may be diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite, decreased energy levels, confusion, blurred vision, and changes in colour perception.
Note: If you are suffering any of these symptoms or think you may be experiencing digitalism (foxglove poisoning) – SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY!
Is it Safe to Grow Foxgloves at Home?
Due to their beauty, foxgloves are often grown as ornamental flowers in pots or as a border plant and as we mentioned, they are very attractive to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Foxgloves are safe to grow at home providing young children are made aware not to touch them and especially not to eat them. If you cannot guarantee that children will not touch or eat them, it is best to grow them out of reach or even not at all.
Are Foxgloves Poisonous to Pets?
Foxgloves are also poisonous to animals such as dogs and cats, but it is unlikely that they will eat them due to the foul bitter taste. Again though, if you have animals that do fancy eating your garden plants, we recommend not growing foxgloves at all.
Foxgloves are certainly beautiful, but they are also extremely deadly and while foxgloves are poisonous to touch, they are even more so if they are ingested.
With the wonders of modern-day medicine, we have been able to use the toxins for our own benefit and the toxins have been refined into an important heart medication.
If you want to grow foxgloves, you should do so safely, take care when handling and wear gloves and keep them out of reach of young children that may decide to try and snack on the flower.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Always wear gloves when handling Foxgloves, even if you do not have sensitive skin, the toxins are easily transferred elsewhere including your eyes and mouth!”
“If you or anyone else ingests foxgloves, seek medical attention immediately. Foxgloves are particularly dangerous and are known to be fatal!”
“If you have young children, grow foxgloves in raised beds that are too high to reach and deadhead before seeding occurs!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to grow foxglove?
Foxgloves are extremely poisonous but are safe to grow providing you take precautions. Keep foxgloves away from young children that may try and eat them and also you must wear gloves when handling them.
If you should touch them, you must wash your hands immediately, so the toxins are not transferred elsewhere.
Is Foxglove poisonous to humans?
Although foxglove poisoning is rare, foxgloves are extremely toxic to humans and many animals when ingested. If you or anyone else ingests foxgloves, seek medical attention immediately.
Is it safe to have foxgloves in my garden?
Foxgloves are extremely poisonous but are safe to grow providing you take precautions. Keep foxgloves away from young children and pets that may try and eat them and you should wear gloves when handling them.
Are foxgloves poisonous to touch UK?
Foxgloves in the UK are poisonous to touch and will often cause skin irritation. It is recommended that you wear gloves when handling them to prevent the toxins from being transferred elsewhere but if you do touch them, you should wash your hands at once. Foxgloves are at their most potent if ingested and if this happens, seek medical attention.
What part of foxglove is poisonous to dogs?
The whole of the foxglove plant is poisonous to dogs. This included the leaves, stems, seeds, and roots. Diarrhoea and vomiting are symptoms of foxglove poisoning in dogs.
Can you die from foxglove?
Foxgloves can be fatal if ingested. Even a small quantity can be extremely dangerous and you should seek medical assistance if you have ingested foxgloves of any kind.
How much foxglove is fatal?
Although it is extremely unlikely that you will die from touching foxgloves, ingesting them is another matter entirely. Just a couple of grams is all that is needed to cause a fatality if not treated immediately.
Is it OK to touch foxgloves?
Foxgloves are poisonous to touch and although you may not experience a reaction, you could easily transfer the toxins to your eyes, mouth or an open wound. Always wear gloves when handling foxgloves.
Should I get rid of foxglove?
If you have young children or pets, it is not a good idea to have foxgloves around. The poisons can be particularly dangerous when ingested but can also be absorbed through the skin.