FIGWORT FAMILY - ScrophulariaceaŽ: Downy False Foxglove

Gerardia flava (Dasystoma flava)

Flowers--Pale yellow, 1-1/2 to 2 in. long; in showy, terminal, leafy bracted racemes. Calyx bell-shaped, 5-toothed; corolla funnel form, the 5 lobes spreading, smooth outside, woolly within; 4 stamens in pairs, woolly; 1 pistil. Stem: Grayish, downy, erect, usually simple, 2 to 4 ft. tall. Leaves: Opposite, lower ones oblong in outline, more or less irregularly lobed and toothed; upper ones small, entire.

Preferred Habitat--Gravelly or sandy soil, dry thickets, open woods.

Flowering Season--July-August.

Distribution--"Eastern Massachusetts to Ontario and Wisconsin, south to southern New York, Georgia, and Mississippi" (Britton and Brown).

In the vegetable kingdom, as in the spiritual, all degree of backsliding sinners may be found, each branded with a mark of infamy according to its deserts. We see how the dodder vine lost both leaf and roots after it consented to live wholly by theft of its hard-working host's juices through suckers that penetrate to the vitals; how the Indian Pipe's blanched face tells the story of guilt perpetrated under cover of darkness in the soil below; how the broom-rape and beech-drops lost their honest green color; and, finally, the foxgloves show us plants with their faces so newly turned toward the path of perdition, their larceny so petty, that only the expert in criminal botany cases condemns them. Like its cousins the gerardias, the Downy False Foxglove is only a partial parasite, attaching its roots by disks or suckers to the roots of white oak or witch hazel; not only that, but, quite as frequently, groping blindly in the dark, it fastens suckers on its own roots, actually thieving from itself! It is this piratical tendency which makes transplanting of foxgloves into our gardens so very difficult, even when lifted with plenty of their beloved vegetable mould. The term false foxglove, it should be explained, is by no means one of reproach for dishonesty; it was applied simply to distinguish this group of plants from the true foxgloves cultivated, not wild, here, which yield digitalis to the doctors.