Nature Notes: The 'magical' foxglove loved by bees

·1-min read
Bees love foxgloves
Bees love foxgloves

BUMBLE bees love foxgloves and indeed they are the plant's main pollinator. Looking out into my garden I can see three different shades of flowers and although several bees are foraging on all of them, they seem to have a preference for white.

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In front of the foxgloves is a stand of ox-eye daisies and two standard fuchsias. The former flowers are ignored, although bees occasionally visit the latter. Inside the foxglove flower is a series of dark marks rather like 'stepping stones' which the bees follow to reach the nectar and pollen.

There are several theories concerning how the tall, stately plant earned its name. One favours the belief that the bell-shaped flowers would make ideal gloves for foxes! A more likely theory is that the name is derived from a series of corruptions in spelling and pronunciation.

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'Glove' may refer to the Anglo-Saxon 'glieu', a musical instrument having a series of small bells whereas 'fox' could mean 'folks', 'little folk' or 'fairies' and in Somerset for example the plant is named 'fairy bells'. Other local names include 'goblin thimbles' and 'fairy fingers'.

Whatever the correct original title, those bells certainly chime, albeit silently, to attract bumble bees!

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