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Thread before the Gardening Thread: I was told there would be no math [KT] | Main | Ace of Spades Pet Thread
January 13, 2018

Saturday Gardening Thread: Useful plants [KT]


Here's hoping I never find this plant
useful outside the garden again.

Happy Saturday! It's good to be back. I was really unable to write a thread last week. The second time I visited the doctor's office with the flu, they called an ambulance and sent me to the hospital because of an irregular heartbeat. One of the drugs used to bring my heart back to normal was derived from the plant above. The history of its use is quite interesting. Not a plant to self-medicate with, though.

Meanwhile, Hank Curmudgeon sent in an interesting blog post on useful trees to know for survival situations. For those who dare venture out into all the global warming in the East lately, plus other weather challenges.

And we received a lovely indoor garden photo.

Useful Trees

Can you I.D. the following six trees in winter by the bark alone? How about this one?


Because of their usefulness, learning to identify these trees in all four seasons is recommended: White Birch, American Basswood, White Pine, White Oak, Sugar Maple and Willow. There are so many uses for these particular trees. Be sure to read the comments.

Did you know that the seeds inside the little maple helicopters are edible, just like edamame?

Sap from the birch and maple can be drunk straight from the tree in late winter like an energy drink.

Foxgloves, AKA Digitalis

Foxgloves and medicine

Except in the garden, foxgloves are NOT do-it-yourself useful plants. But cardiac glycosides from the common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, hs been called the beginning of modern therapeutics. That's because a Scottish physician, William Withering, made a good attempt to standardize the dosage of the active agent(s) in the plant. Not much over 200 years ago. Foxgloves became flowers for the heart and a few other maladies, too.

The therapeutic window of digitalis is narrow, and it has side-effects. It is believed that experimental digitalis treatment may have give us Van Gogh's "Yellow Period", and Starry Night.


Poison Control has a couple of lovely foxglove photos. Excelsior strain on the left, I believe. A case in which a couple was poisoned is profiled. Guy mistook foxglove leaves for borage leaves while preparing an herbal sauce. Don't do that. They also note, particularly with regard to this plant, not to prepare your own herbal medicines.

Foxgloves and folklore

There is a rich history of human interactions with foxgloves. Including fairy tales (foxgloves are great in fairy gardens) and myths. Here's an unusual one.

Foxglove mythology associates the flower with Juno (Hera) who learned midwife lore from the Goddess Flora, including a supernatural method of using foxgloves to induce parthenogenetic (single-sex) pregnancy. Flora placed a foxglove blossom on her thumb, touched Juno on the tips of her breasts & on her belly, so that she became impregnated with Mars who had no father.


Foxgloves in the Garden

Foxgloves are fun in the garden, growing from 2 to 8 feet tall, depending on type. They are hardy enough to grow in Alaska. Most are suited to rich, shady borders, though some are more sun-tolerant. The traditional common foxgloves were once generally biennials, blooming the second year, with rebloom later in the season in cool climates if cut back. Newer strains bloom the first year. There are also other species, including some that are more sun-tolerant.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds has an especially nice selection of foxgloves.

Excelsior is an old biennial strain (below). Cemelot is a newer version, blooming the first and second years.


Strawberry foxglove is a true perennial hybrid that comes true from seed. It is more sun-tolerant than common foxglove.


Gardens of The Horde

Lirio100 sent in the following:

I hate to see everything go down in fall so there's always a few pots I try to save. We have new LED grow lights this year so might be more successful--maybe! The plants include a flowering maple, gardenia, lantana, geranium, oregano, and a coffee plant. The orchids are always indoor but they seem to like the light, they're Miltonia.


I love that collection. Note the red Solo cup, a sign of a real gardener. Love the orchids, too.

It rained here in the San Joaquin Valley! Without the mudslides the rain produced elsewhere, pretty much.

Anything going on where you garden?

If you would like to send information and/or photos for the Saturday Gardening Thread, the address is:

at g mail dot com

Include your nic unless you want to be a lurker.

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:52 PM

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