Monday, June 02, 2008

Mediations on Foxgloves

We have in past years discussed our foxgloves in this blog. We collected the originals many years ago from the creek banks of Pickens and Helvetia.

To refresh your memory, in 1869, a real estate development company in New York induced a group of Swiss immigrants to settle on the Right Fork of the Buckhannon River. They named their settlement after their native hometown, Helvetia

They came via Brooklyn, N.Y., lured by newspaper advertisements that proclaimed the immense natural beauty of the Mountain State. They managed, with some help from Scots-Irish neighbors, to establish farms and to learn to hunt and fish.

The original foxgloves were planted by Dr. James Cunningham for the medicinal properties of this plant. Medicines from foxgloves are called "
Digitalin". The use of Digitalis purpurea extract for the treatment of heart conditions was first described by William Withering, in 1785, which is considered the beginning of modern therapeutics.
Dr. James L. Cunningham established in 1891 his medical practice just a few miles from Helvetia in Pickens. In his 60-plus years of practice he handled 1,300 cases of typhoid with a 2 percent mortality rate, delivered 3,600 babies without the loss of a mother, and treated one of West Virginia’s known three cases of leprosy. He died in his 103rd year of life, the oldest doctor in the United States at the time.

Every year at this time when the foxgloves bloom in their magnificence, we silently thank Dr. Cunningham for his foxgloves that he planted over 100 years ago. It is amazing to think that these plants are so hardy and the foxglove population is still strong. Foxgloves are biennials so we always diligent in scattering the seeds each year so this tradition may be continued.


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