Weed alert: State warns of toxic Grecian foxglove

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State officials are asking residents to keep their eyes peeled for Grecian foxglove, a noxious weed that has made a foothold in the eastern part of Minnesota.

The Department of Agriculture said Grecian foxglove is poisonous to animals and humans, and it's also an invasive species in that it crowds out more desirable plants.

Grecian foxglove is a perennial plant and will come back year after year if it's not eradicated, according to the department. It's been seen growing along roadsides, in yards, grasslands, and the edges of forests along the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers, and it's even been found in a homeowner's vegetable garden.

Grecian foxglove has been spotted so far in parts of Washington, Dakota, and Wabasha counties. The Agriculture Department has an interactive map which shows exactly where it's growing.

Grecian foxglove is not native to North America. It was brought here from central and southern Europe originally as an ornamental plant. Officials say they're most concerned that it could be mistaken for an edible plant and eaten by people or animals, especially the leafy parts of the plant.

Here's a description of what it looks like.

  • In its first year, it looks like a green rosette with no flowers. It blossoms beginning in the second year.
  • Mature plants are two to five feet tall with creamy white, tubular flowers that have purplish lines.
  • Leaves are simple, alternate, oblong-shaped, and about six inches long with a pointed tip.

The plant is related to garden foxglove, which is available in many varieties and is not harmful. The main difference between the two is that Grecian foxglove has wooly hairs on the flowering stems and the undersides of the leaves.

If you see a Grecian foxglove plant, you're asked to contact the state agriculture department with the exact location, and take digital photos, if possible.

Contact the MDA at arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us or 888-545-6684.

They don't recommend trying to dig out the plants yourself. Crews will treat the infestations in the fall.

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