Verbascum thapsus | ‘Great Mullein’
Great Mullein is also known as Common Mullein, Wooly Mullein, Mullein Dock, Velvet Dock, Velvet Plant, Candlewick Plant, Flannel-Leaf Plant, Our Lady’s Flannel, Blanket Herb, Woollen, Rag Paper, Wild Ice Leaf, Clown’s Lungwort, Bullock’s Lungwort, Aaron’s Rod, Jupiter’s Staff, Jacob’s Staff, Peter’s Staff, Shepherd’s Staff, Shepherd’s Clubs,Beggar’s Stalk, Golden Rod, Adam’s Flannel, Beggar’s Blanket, Clot, Cuddy’s Lungs, Duffle, Feltwort, Fluffweed, Hare’s Beard, Old Man’s Flannel and Hag’s Taper.
Mullein is a wooly herbaceous biennial pioneer plant with a deep tap root. It’s found in many different habitats, occurring primarily in disturbed sandy or rocky soils in full sun. It has become established throughout the U.S. and Canada wherever the growing season is at least 140 days long and rainfall is sufficient. It’s most often found in neglected meadows and pasture lands, along fence rows and roadsides, in vacant lots, wood edges, forest openings and industrial areas… wherever heavy rainfalls take the seeds.
In the first year of growth plants are merely a low-growing rosette of felt-like leaves that are densely covered in hairs. Vernalization (exposure to cold temperatures) is required to induce flowering the following spring. In the second year plants produce a very tall and sturdy flower stalk reaching 5-8+ feet in height! The inflorescence is a spike-like raceme, usually singular, but sometimes branched. Generally, the duration of the flowering period is related to the plants height– the taller the stalk, the longer it will bloom. The 5-petaled flowers bloom a few at a time throughout the summer, generally maturing on the stalk from the bottom to the top in successive spirals, but can also be sporadic at times. Although thought of primarily as a wildflower and a weed, Great Mullein is also cultivated as an ornamental plant because of its many redeeming qualities.
After flowering is complete the entire plant will die. The tiny seeds are abundant and can remain viable for decades, or even centuries in the soil. Viable seeds have been found in soil samples dating back to 1300 AD! However, Mullien is easily managed by manually removing the plants before flowering, not disturbing the soil, and establishing dense vegetative cover that will prevent seed germination. Sow seed in late spring to summer to early fall.
Great Mullein has a long history of herbal uses, having an affinity for the lungs and the bones. Mullein works magic for the muscular skeletal system to which it lends its cool moist nature, soothing and lubricating stiff and inflamed joints, and helping to bring the spine in alignment. It is a bit of a nervine as well and the flower tincture is helpful for irritability and nerve related tension.
The leaves can be harvested in the first or second summer, the flowers in bloom, and the roots in the fall of the first year only. The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plant, and among the first remedies to be thought of in treating bronchitis, asthma, wheezing and tightness in the lungs, congestion, and dry coughs that shake the frame of the body, as they make an excellent expectorant. An expectorant aids the lungs in expelling mucous and phlegm by loosening it from the walls of the lungs, promoting “effective” coughing; thus, Mullein will stimulate coughing, even though that’s the symptom being treated. The smoke is extremely light and mild, almost like smoking air, and has virtually no flavor. The tea or tincture made from the leaves can be used as a respiratory tonic, energetically cooling and moist, helping to calm inflammation and promote fluid production to clear the lungs.
Dried, crushed Mullein is best smoked when its ever so slightly moist, rubbed between the fingers for the best results. It will become very fluffy and puffy. This fuzzy rubbed Mullein will burn evenly when smoked and is ideal as a smoking base because it will hold other herbs that are in small pieces or powder form, and keep them evenly distributed. The light green baby leaves found in the center of the first years basal rosette tend to be the favorite for some folks, but it’s a matter of personal choice. Any leaf will work.
Weavils like to take residence in the flower towers to no detriment of the plant.
Drought tolerant, low maintenance deer resistant, and attracts a wide variety of insects such as bees, flies, butterflies and other insects.