Written by: Catherine Browne
In South Africa we are lucky to be home to a diverse collection of indigenous flora. This list includes the elegant wild foxglove. Scientifically known as Ceratotheca triloba, this plant is an upright annual with delicate purple and white flowers. The wild foxglove is currently flowering in the SANBI Kirstenbosch garden, so in honour of this, SANBI and the Botanical Society of South Africa have put together five facts you probably didn’t know about this stunning plant.
1. The name Ceratotheca tribola is actually deceptive. Although similar in appearance to foxglove, it is in fact not related at all. Foxglove belongs to the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae) whereas this plant belongs to the sesame family (Pedaliaceae).
2. Wild foxglove brings a cool, lush, elegance to the summer garden and is easy to grow. Seeds should be sown in spring or early summer, in well drained fertile soil, in a warm, sunny, semi-shaded position. They also need to be watered generously and fertilised regularly.
3. Wild foxgloves are opportunistic annuals – some may even call them weeds. In nature, wild foxgloves are found in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa, especially in grasslands. They are often seen growing in disturbed areas like roadsides, where they germinate, flower and disperse their seeds before the onset of the dry winter frost.
4. The leaves are soft and a bit sticky to the touch, with a rather unpleasant scent. While they may not smell nice, they are very useful. The leaves are used in traditional medicine to treat painful menstruation and stomach cramps, nausea, fever and diarrhoea, and are sometimes even used to make insect repellent sprays. The roots are used to help with sore eyes and ears.
5. Ceratotheca means ‘having horned capsules’, from the Greek ‘kerato’ meaning horned, and ‘theke’ a case. Triloba refers to the plant having three leaves.
South Africa has a rich diversity of indigenous flora which needs to be protected. The Botanical Society is an NGO driven to support biodiversity conservation, awareness and education. Find out more about the society, how you can become a member and other ways to support their initiatives on www.botanicalsociety.org.za.
If you have a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card you can also make the Botanical Society one of your beneficiaries to show your support.