Foxglove Flower Meaning and Symbolism

While foxgloves are increasingly popular ornamental plants, they’re not used for cut flowers or in bouquets, as they are quite poisonous. 

They are valued for their unusual stacking blooms, as well as being very low maintenance plants – which is good, considering their toxicity!

Previously, they were considered weeds, but like many plants that haven’t been in favor for a long time, the foxgloves are enjoying a renewed popularity. 

Read on to discover the meaning behind the foxglove. 

What does ‘Foxglove’ Mean?

The term foxglove has its origins in Old English as “foxes glofe”, though some people believe that this was originally used for a different plant. 

It’s caused confusion among etymologists everywhere – as we can understand the ‘glove’ part, but not really the ‘fox’.

This has caused some folk myths to spring up, telling of foxes that wore these flowers over the paws, so they couldn’t be heard by their prey. 

The genus name, digitalis, helps shed a tiny bit of light, but not much. It stems from the Latin word for finger, digitus, as well as the German common name, Fingerhut, which translates to “finger hat”, meaning a thimble. 

Some tales insist that picking a foxglove flower is offensive to spirits and fairies, which was probably a fable to stop children from handling or even eating the plant. 

Like many poisonous plants, we’ve still found uses for foxgloves. Over the years, we’ve managed to make medicine to treat heart problems, including congestive heart failure, as well as increasing circulation around the body. 

Like any plant, when treated or taken incorrectly, it can be fatal, and this is where the names ‘witches’ gloves’ and ‘dead man’s bell’s’ come from.

What do Foxgloves Represent?

Foxgloves are one of the more enigmatic flowers when it comes to the symbolism behind the flower, as they have contrasting meanings. 

In some contexts, they’re associated with death, dishonesty, and pain. Through stories and folklore, people have associated this flower with death because of its toxicity, a great tool for warning their children’s curiosity off of this plant. 

In others, foxgloves are healing plants, which also embody productivity, confidence, and creativity. 

These plants produce a lot of seed, and you’ll often find a lot of new foxgloves surrounding the original plant the following year, more so than other plants. In this way, foxgloves represent abundance and wealth, as well as bringing ideas to fruition.

The ornamental beauty of the foxglove also means that this plant is tied to pride and ambition, and the flower spikes often tower over other plants.  

What is the Cultural Significance Behind the Foxglove?

During the medieval period, foxgloves were revered, believed to be sacred to the Virgin Mary, so they were grown in her honor.  

What does a Foxglove Tattoo Mean?

While one of the less popular motifs in tattoos, foxglove tattoos are among the most unusual, and the most interesting. 

They can represent the wealth of imagination we have in childhood, and how stories stay with us throughout our lives, to be passed on to any number of generations in the future. 

After all, this was how we originally remembered the best uses for certain plants. 

When Should You Give Someone Foxgloves?

In some places, it’s considered unlucky to give someone foxgloves, and this is probably due to the plant’s poisonous properties. 

The same can be said for picking foxgloves – as you’re handling what could be deadly if you are not careful, as well as preventing pollinators from a source of food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t admire them from afar.

If you do know someone who admires foxgloves, seeds are readily available, and are probably a more appropriate gift. 

Any type of digitalis can be grown from seed with very little effort, and the recipient will get the added benefit of the satisfaction of seeing a plant grow because of them. There’s nothing like growing something from seed and seeing it eventually flower. 

It will be a gift that they’ll be able to enjoy for years because the plant will set seed and grow a number of new foxgloves, as opposed to just a few weeks or even a few days, if you’d given them a cut flower. 

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