Wild Flowers - Digitalis obscura - The Spanish Rusty Foxglove

Digitalis obscura - The Spanish rusty Foxglove ©Tony Hall
Digitalis obscura - The Spanish rusty Foxglove

Digitalis obscura - The Spanish Rusty Foxglove

This woody perennial foxglove is unmistakable from other foxgloves with its yellowy-orange flowers, with rusty coloured patches between the lobes and darker net-like veining on the inside.They can also have red-brown flowers. It's a tall plant that can reach just over a metre tall, but is usually shorter.

The long linear-lanceolate, curved, leathery leaves form a basal rosette, which extends to just below the first flowers. The species obscura, has leaves with an entire (smooth) margin, while the subspecies laciniata is easily distinguished by its serrate or deeply toothed leaf margin. The tall hairless stems are often branched near the base. Flowers are produced on a one-sided spike and are slightly drooping, they are tubular, widening at their opening with finely hairy margins and 2-lipped. The lower lip is 3-lobed with a protruding central lobe.

Digitalis obscura is not that common but can be found growing mainly in the hills, mountains and stony pasture. Considering the hundreds of seeds produced in each of its pointed seed capsules, it's surprising they are not more common! Flowering from April and up to July in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

All parts of this plant are poisonous.


Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.