General: Common Foxglove is a biennial or short-lived perennial.
Flowers: Typically pink-purple and bell-shaped, with dark purple spots on the inside. Flowers grow in a column on one side of the stem, but do not grow until the plant’s second year of growth. Flowers can also be white, pink, rose, or yellow.
Stem: Erect, leafy stems that grow between 0.5 m and 1.5 m tall. Stems are densely covered in hairs that become glandular farther up the stem.
Leaves: Lance-shaped and green, with soft, grey-white hairs covering the top and bottom of the leaves. The leaves are 10 – 35 cm long and arranged in a spiral along the stem. They form a tight rosette at the bottom of the stem and decrease in size up the stem.
Fruit: Egg-shaped capsules, around 12 mm long that split at maturity. The seeds are 0.5 mm long.
Roots: Fibrous, reaching minimum depths of 15 cm.
Common Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) also has purple flowers, but they are closer to a blue colour, and don’t grow in columns along the stem.
Habitat and Origin
Native to western Europe, the Mediterranean, and Northwest Africa. Common Foxglove was brought to North America as both a garden ornamental and medicinal plant. It can now be found throughout most of Canada and is abundant in south-western British Columbia.
Common Foxglove is abundant in disturbed areas, noticeably along roads, in fields, clearings, gravel pits, and forest edges. It thrives in soils that are high in nutrients and moisture, as well as in medium heat and light.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Common Foxglove produces flowers and seeds in its second year of growth. A single plant can produce up to 5000 seeds a year. Flowers need to be pollinated by bees in order to produce seeds.
Small numerous seeds are dispersed by wind, water, contaminated soils, and by gardening equipment. Common Foxglove is also sold in garden stores and nurseries as a garden ornamental, which aids in its spread.
Ecological, Economic, & Health Impacts
- Outcompetes native plants due to the natural succession process.
- Highly toxic to humans and animals. Can cause serious illness or death if ingested due to the presence of glycoside digitoxin in the leaves, flowers, and seeds.
- Skin contact with the plant can also cause irritation.
What Can I Do?
Common Foxglove is currently found throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor, so Strategic Control is key.
Learn to identify Common Foxglove: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Common Foxglove.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Common Foxglove sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Ensure soil and gravel are uncontaminated before transport.
- Check wildflower mixes to ensure that they do not contain Common Foxglove.
- Ensure that plants are disposed of in a garbage bag if found in floral arrangements to prevent seeds from spreading.
- Do not unload, park or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles, or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Do not plant Common Foxglove in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Do not move soil that has been contaminated with Common Foxglove.
- Do not compost Common Foxglove.
Hand-pulling of Common Foxglove is proven to be the most effective and efficient method of control. If hand-pulling, the use of gloves is essential due to the plant’s toxic properties. Ensure that the entire root is removed and that all flowers are bagged. When removing flowers, make sure not to shake the plant, as seeds can be dispersed back into the soil.
Trials on chemical control have been conducted and have concluded that metsulfron methyl and triclopyr showed some control on Common Foxglove, however, hand-pulling is still proven to be the most effective method of control. Applying chemical herbicide to cut stumps and the frilling method are the most effective for plants that cannot be manually removed. Foliar herbicide treatment may also be effective but may result in spray drift affecting desirable vegetation.
We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
There is currently no biological control for Common Foxglove due to its toxic properties.
- California Invasive Plant Council, Digitalis purpurea, https://www.cal-ipc.org/resources/library/publications/ipcw/report42/
- Central Coast Biodiversity, Common Foxglove, https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/common-foxglove-bull-digitalis-purpurea.html
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of BC, Digitalis purpurea L., http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Digitalis%20purpurea
- Invasive Plant Atlas, Foxglove, https://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/subject.html?sub=5547
- Pacific Northwest Flowers, Digitalis purpurea, https://www.pnwflowers.com/flower/digitalis-purpurea
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, Common Foxglove, https://wimastergardener.org/article/common-foxglove-digitalis-purpurea/