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.
|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
|Herbaceous biennial / biennial forb (a herbaceous flowering plant that’s not a grass) or short-lived perennial
|Two to seven feet tall; up to two and a half feet wide
|Poor to average, well-drained
|Yellow; flowers after two years
|Europe, northern Africa and Asia
Description and photo credit: The Spruce