foxglove, a spreading menace
Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a fast-spreading toxic weed found in many parts of Tasmania. Native to Europe, it was imported as an ornamental garden plant. In Tasmania's cool, well-watered climate, it has escaped into the wild and spread explosively.
Foxglove is extremely poisonous. It contains chemicals which alter heart action leading to severe illness and in some cases death. All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and animals. Horses, sheep and cattle tend to avoid eating foxglove in the field. However consumption of hay contaminated with foxglove leads to illness and rapid death. The dried plant doesn't smell or taste like fresh foxglove but it is every bit as toxic. Do not eat foxglove and don't get it on your skin.
Comon Foxglove has invaded bushland, pasture, private land, forestry areas, and public reserves all across Tasmania. Despite the known dangers of the plant, the threat it poses to Tasmania's showcase natural places, and its major impact on landholders, some garden centres are still selling it and promoting it as an ornamental garden plant, and so far the State Government has not added it to the declared weeds list. (A "declared" weed is one which land managers are required to control. This is important: otherwise one recalcitrant landholder can cause endless trouble for all the surrounding neighbours, forcing them to constantly battle weed problems not of their making.)
Foxglove is normally biennial. In its second year, it grows a tall flower spike and produces a huge number of seeds (many thousands from each plant). These are easily spread by wind, water, and on the fur of passing animals. Illegal disposal of garden waste is another source, and as with so many other serious weeds, badly cleaned machinery spreads it along roadsides. (Local councils are notorious for this - look for example at the tell-tale distribution patterns of Spanish Heath, Chilean Needlegrass and Seratted Tussock.)
Foxglove can be controlled, and it can be eliminated. It takes some knowledge and some hard work. My task with this website is to help you with a little know-how. Your task is to put in the work. I wish you every success.