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Red foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Red foxglove ( Digitalis purpurea )

Euasterids I
Order : Mint family (Lamiales)
Family : Plantain family (Plantaginaceae)
Tribe : Digitalideae
Genre : Thimbles
Scientific name

The foxgloves ( Digitalis ) are a plant kind from the family of the way Erich plants (Plantaginaceae). The approximately 25 species are distributed in Europe , North Africa and Western Asia .


Digitalis species grow as biennial or perennial herbaceous plants that rarely become lignified at the base. The stems are branched at most at their base. The alternate, sometimes basal leaves are simple. The leaf margin is smooth or serrated.

The flowers are in terminal, sometimes branched, racemose inflorescences together. The hermaphrodite flowers are zygomorphic and five-fold. The five sepals are fused, with short sepals . The five petals are fused tubular to bell-shaped. The corolla is two-lipped; the lower lip is three-lobed and no corolla lobes can be seen on the upper lip. There are only four stamens present; they do not protrude from the corolla tube. The dust bags touch in pairs. The stylus ends in a two-lobed scar.

The septicidal, egg-shaped capsule fruit contains many small, ribbed seeds .

Thimbles in a forest clearing


The digitalis glycosides contained in the plants are used therapeutically for the symptomatic therapy of heart failure , as they have a positive inotropic effect on the heart. In high doses they act as a poison , which leads to death due to various cardiac arrhythmias . The thimble, especially the red thimble , was administered internally and externally in medicine.


Rust-colored foxglove ( Digitalis ferruginea )
Large-flowered foxglove ( Digitalis grandiflora )
Spanish foxglove ( Digitalis obscura )
Small-flowered foxglove ( Digitalis parviflora )

A particularly large number of secondary metabolites have been isolated from the thimbles genus ; The most important ones include cardiac glycosides , but various phenols such as anthranoids , phenylpropionic acids or flavonoids and also steroids (steroid saponins, sterols) have also been found. Furthermore, phenolic glycosides, sorbitols , cornosides and various phenylethanoid glycosides have been detected.

In Europe, the local digitalis species of woolly foxglove and red foxglove are grown for the production of cardiac glycosides .

Steroid saponins

Steroid saponins are made from a steroid in which a side chain of cholesterol created structural changes to form a spiroketal. In digitalis these components have only weak soap-like properties. Typical saponins are digitonin , tigogenin and gitogenin.


Digitanols are C5-C6 unsaturated pregnanes . Some of them have the 14-beta-hydroxyl function, which is typical for cardenolides . As a result, cardenolides and digitanols may share the same biosynthetic pathways . Well-known digitanols are digiprogenin, digipurpurogenin, purpnigenin, purprogenin, digacetigenin, digifoligenin, and diginigenin.


About 40 different anthranoids have been identified in the genus Digitalis . Digitolutein seems to be a typical anthranoid for all digitalis species.

Systematics and distribution

The genus Digitalis was established by Carl von Linné . The botanical genus name Digitalis is derived from the Latin word digitus for "finger".

The genus Digitalis is widespread in Europe, North Africa and Western Asia , the main area of ​​distribution is southern Europe . In Germany there are three types: the large-flowered foxglove , the yellow foxglove and the red foxglove , as a neophyte there is also the woolly foxglove .

Distribution of 19 species of foxgloves (digitalis) in Europe and the Middle East. Attempt to represent according to natural distribution

There are about 25 Digitalis - types (selection):

The Canary thimbles ( Isoplexis ) were originally also placed in the genus Digitalis by Carl von Linné . Phylogenetic studies show the isoplexis species embedded between the digitalis species, so that some authors have now returned the four isoplexis species to digitalis . The Plant List currently (as of April 2017) maintains the individual position.


On November 2, 2019, the first day of issue, Deutsche Post AG issued a postage stamp with a face value of 370 euro cents with an image of the red thimble in the series Flowers . The design comes from the graphic designers Stefan Klein and Olaf Neumann from Iserlohn .


Web links

Commons : Thimbles ( Digitalis )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Thimble  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Adelheid Overhamm: On the history of digitalis with special consideration of its external application. Würzburg 1976 (= sources and studies on the history of pharmacy. Volume 13).
  2. JJ Lichius, R. Weber, M. Kirschke, S. Liedke, D. Brieger: A Viennese in a café - news from the thimble and its coffee acid esters. In: Deutsche Apotheker Ztg. Volume 135, 1995, pp. 3794-3800.
  3. RM Taskova, CH Gotfredsen, SR Jensen: Chemotaxonomic markers in digital ideae (Plantaginaceae). In: Phytochemistry . Issue 66, 2005, pp. 1440-1447.
  4. ^ EF Heeger: Handbook of Medicinal and Spice Plant Cultivation, Drug Production. Deutscher Landwirtschaftsverlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-331-00191-0 .
  5. C. Kole (Ed.): Wild Crop Relatives: Genomic and Breeding Resources, Plantation and Ornamental Crops. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-642-21200-0 .
  6. S. Liedtke, M. Wichtl: Digitanol glycosides from Digitalis lanata Erh. and Digitalis purpurea L., part 2: Glucodiginin and glucodigifolein from Digitalis purpurea L. In: Pharmazie. Issue 52, 1, 1997, pp. 79-80. Inst. Pharmaceutical Biology, Marburg / Lahn.
  7. Martin Luckner, Max Wichtl: Digitalis: history, biology, chemistry, physiology, molecular biology, medical application. Handbook for doctors, pharmacists and other natural scientists. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-8047-1705-5 .
  8. S. Imre, S. Sar, RH Thomson: Anthraquinones in Digitalis species. In: Phytochemistry. Issue 15, 1976, pp. 317-320, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Istanbul.
  9. a b c d e f g h i j k l m Digitalis in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  10. a b c d e f g h i j k Karol Marhold: Scrophulariaceae. In: Euro + Med Plantbase - the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity. Berlin 2011.
  11. C. Bräuchler, H. Meimberg, G. Heubl: Molecular phylogeny of the genera Digitalis L. and Isoplexis (Lindley) Loudon (Veronicaceae) based on ITS and trnL-F sequences . In: Plant Systematics and Evolution . tape 248 , no. 1-4 , September 1, 2004, ISSN  0378-2697 , p. 111–128 , doi : 10.1007 / s00606-004-0145-z ( [accessed March 12, 2017]).
  12. ^ Isoplexis - The Plant List. Retrieved March 12, 2017 (English).