Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Digitalis purpurea L.

Fully hardy, rosette forming, variable biennial with tall. one-sided spikes of purple, pink or white flowers, with paler spots inside, in early summer.  To 2m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

No doubt an ancient garden plant and long prized for its powerful medicinal properties as well as valued for its beauty.  ‘Fox-glove.  Digitalis.  It grows up to three foot high; the leaves have a little down upon them, ye flowers are red, spotted with white, and grow all on one side of the stalk.  Fox-glove grows in hedges and lanes; and flowers in June and July.  This plant is but rarely used inwardly, being a strong Emetic, working with violence upwards and downwards.  Parkinson extols a decoction of it in ale with polipody roots, as an approved medicine for ye falling sickness,  The late Doctor Hulse commends ye ointment made of the flowers and May butter, for scrophulous ulcers which run, dressing them with the ointment and purging two or three times a week with proper purges.  The official preparation is the Unguentum digitalis.’  Interestingly, its property of strengthening and slowing the heart-beat, for which it is still used today, is not mentioned here.  [Blackwell pl.16/1737].  Don.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1845, 1850 and 1857 catalogues [H.97/1845].


Published Sep 24, 2009 - 12:07 PM | Last updated Jul 31, 2010 - 03:34 PM

Figured are leaves and a one-sided spike of purple flowers, spotted with deeper purple inside.  Blackwell pl.16, 1737.

Digitalis purpurea L. | Blackwell pl.16/1737 | BHL

Family Scrophulariaceae
Region of origin


Common Name

Common foxglove

Name in the Camden Park Record

Digitalis purpurea 

Confidence level high