Foxglove (Digitalis), photographed at Green Spring Gardens
© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.
I was aware that Foxglove is highly poisonous, but wanted to do some further research. I found a fascinating reference to Van Gogh’s paintings and his possible use of digitalis therapy during his “yellow period.” Here’s what I found on wikipedia on the subject:
The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds). Mortality is rare, but case reports do exist. Most plant exposures occur in children younger than six years and are usually unintentional and without associated significant toxicity. More serious toxicity occurs with intentional ingestions by adolescents and adults. Early symptoms of ingestion include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, wild hallucinations, delirium, and severe headache. Depending on the severity of the toxicosis, the victim may later suffer irregular and slow pulse, tremors, various cerebral disturbances, especially of a visual nature (unusual colour visions (see xanthopsia) with objects appearing yellowish to green, and blue halos around lights), convulsions, and deadly disturbances of the heart. Vincent van Gogh‘s “Yellow Period” may have been influenced by digitalis therapy which, at the time, was thought to control seizures. As noted above, other oculotoxic effects of digitalis include generalized blurry vision, as well as seeing a “halo” around each point of light. The latter effect can be seen in van Gogh’s Starry Night. Van Gogh’s digitalis use is strongly suggested by multiple self portraits that include the foxglove plant.
SIDEBAR: I initially majored in fine art (painting) in college before switching to graphic design. I don’t regret that decision as my education and experience has afforded me a fulfilling career in design. Through the years, when I have attempted to return to painting, I have found it difficult to get traction and to find my “style.” I prefer painting loose and sketchy, using lots of paint. I also don’t want to copy work as I did when I was learning to paint all those years ago. As a photographer who continually strives for sharp focus in my images, it can be hard to loosen up when I return to the canvas. Despite this struggle, I don’t think I’ll be partaking of foxglove as Van Gogh did!
Earlier this year, I wrote about what I call “the painting years.” You can read those postings below: