The handful of leaves at the tip of the plant are a pleasure to look at, with a subtle display of the Fibonacci pattern. (The Fibonacci series is the mathematical form portrayed in the cross section of a nautilus shell or the pattern of seeds on a sunflower head.)
Our eyes see delightful beauty in our gardens. Yet, some of the splendor in garden flower remains unseen. Each foxglove blossom has a different set of splotches all the way into its throat, like little runway guides leading to the sweet nectar. These are intriguing enough. But there’s more. Pollinating bumble bees see something beyond our vision. Bumble bees have a pair of six-sided, compound eyes and three simple eyes. Even with such complex eyes, their sight is accurate for only about three feet. A special light guides bumble bees on their lusty journeys for pure nectar. Bumble bees see ultraviolet light. A pattern of ultraviolet coloration lures a bumble bee into the foxglove flower’s throat. These patterns unseen by our eyes act like the signals of an airport’s landing strip. And the ultraviolet splotches of color don’t match the random splotches we see in the sunshine.
The earth’s protective atmosphere shields us from much of the sun’s ultraviolet light (radiation). Enough ultraviolet radiation filters through to aid bumble bees in their daily journeys. Even on a cloudy day, the bumble bees see the ultraviolet spectrum by cloud-penetrating ultraviolet light. What assists bumble bees on their quest for pollen and nectar can cause us to sunburnpart of the two-sided tapestry of life.
In each blossom the pollen is in the roof of the flower so the upper body of the bumble bee is brushed with the pollen as the bumble bee goes deeper into the blossom to seek out the sweet nectar. After flying to another flower, the pollens are mixed and seed formation begins. The pollination process leads to a plant with a mixture of colors. Yet an isolated stand with creamy flowers will remain shades of cream until a seedling of a rose-colored blossom pops up nearby. Then things get interesting as different blends of color appear.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is the source of digitalis a heart medication. According to the American Heart Association: “Digitalis is a drug that strengthens the contraction of the heart muscle, slows the heart rate and helps eliminate fluid from body tissues. It's often used to treat congestive heart failure and is also used to treat certain arrhythmias. Digitalis has been described in medical literature for over 200 years.” The extract is taken from the leaves. (Two synthetic mimics of digitalis are Digitoxin and Digoxin.) India supplies most of the cultivated digitalis. Others sources are wild crafted (gathered from wild, un-cultivated areas) in Europe, from Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Italy. Digitalis is toxic at very low levels.
Previous Tidbit on shovels and spades