Biennial or perennial herbs or rarely small shrubs. Leaves alternate or sometimes predominantly basal, simple, variously dentate to subentire. Flowers irregular, in terminal, bracteate, racemes. Calyx 5-lobed; lobes equal to subequal, shorter than corolla tube. Corolla tubular, cylindrical or inflated-globose, usually constricted towards base; limb usually bilabiate with lips spreading or erect, upper lip shorter. Stamens 4. Capsule conical to ovoid, septicidal. Seeds small, many.
Species +/- 20, Europe, Mediterranean and Canary Islands; naturalised elsewhere in the world, as an escape from cultivation; sthn trop. Afr. 1: *Digitalis purpurea L. recorded from Zimbabwe and Malawi.
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