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Lot Location: 6.7

Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) grows in pastures and meadows that have been neglected, on the side of the road and the edges of woods, along fence rows, in vacant lots and industrial areas. In the first year, plants grow low to the ground, bearing rosettes of hairy leaves. Gray-green in color, oblong to lanceolate, each soft leaf measures 4 to 12 inches long and one to five inches wide. This herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial has a deep taproot. For the plant to come back and flower in the spring of its second year, it needs to be exposed to cold temperatures in a process known as vernalization.

Flower stalks grow quite tall (anywhere from two to seven feet), bearing small, yellow (rarely white), five-petaled flowers grouped closely on a leafy spike. Blooming a few at a time from June to September, they mature from the bottom to the top of the spike in spirals. In addition to its especially soft, felt-like foliage, another characteristic that makes this plant unique is that each individual bloom opens before sunrise and closes by mid-afternoon. Flowers attract flies, butterflies, short- and long-tongued bees, and other insects.

Common Names Mullein, common mullein, wooly mullein (plant); Jacob’s staff, Jupiter’s staff and Aaron’s rod (flower stalks); bunny’s ears, flannel leaf, velvet leaf
Botanical Name Verbascum thapsus 
Family Scrophulariaceae 
Plant Type  Herbaceous biennial / biennial forb (a herbaceous flowering plant that’s not a grass) or short-lived perennial
Mature Size  Two to seven feet tall; up to two and a half feet wide
Sun Exposure  Full sun
Soil Type  Poor to average, well-drained
Soil pH  Slightly alkaline
Bloom Time  Summer
Flower Color  Yellow; flowers after two years
Hardiness Zones  3-9 (USDA)
Native Area  Europe, northern Africa and Asia


Description and photo credit: The Spruce