Is Digitalis debris safe to add to a compost pile?

Asked July 11, 2020, 7:50 PM EDT

Greetings Gardening Safety Experts ;) I love having Foxglove around my place - kinda helps me 'transport' myself out of the city! Will any amount of the deadly poison Digitalis (leaves, flowers, seeds, stems) in a compost pile create Poison compost? I use the compost in food gardens. Composting may not be "complete" when I use it and my method is a "cool" pile, as I'm not strong enough to turn it. Does it poison the ground around its roots too? Should I make sure no living Foxglove plants around food gardens? There are no kids around, so no possibility of accidents that way. Almost lost a dog to what must've been an accidental bite of a Foxglove leaf when he was 'stealing' a strawberry! )); He lived, but became very fragile, and was never quite the same )); Thank you for keeping us safe!

Lane County Oregon

2 Responses

I appreciate your question; it inspired me to stroll around the yard and remove seed-bearing foxglove stalks. I have plenty enough without intentionally letting it go to seed ...

You're confusing what's poisonous to mammals with what is poisonous to plants.
  • Digitalis causes cardiac nerves to fire in a non-usual way. Plants don't have nerves.
  • Most plant poisons (herbicides) block the action of an enzyme and so cause plant debilitation or death.
So, back to my first statement: I would not hesitate to compost the leaves, stems, and flowers of foxglove, but I would not compost the seed. I have enough already. :)

After rereading your question, I'd like to add:
  • There is no reason to believe that foxglove deposits digitalis into the soil surrounding the roots.
  • You're not going to render garden vegetables poisonous to mammals by allowing foxglove to grow near them, nor by applying composting containing foxglove tissues around them.