Common Mullein

Scientific Name: Verbascum thapsus
Family Name: Scrophulariaceae

Flower: ¾ - 1 in. (2 – 2.5 cm.) wide yellow flowers, with five united petals growing on a tall spike. One spike grows from each Basal rosette of leaves.

Leaf: Velvet, light gray to green, basal leaves, with leaves growing as long as 1 ft. (30 cm.). Leaves are shorter closer to the flower spike and longer towards the ground.

Plant: Common Mullein varies in height, growing 2 – 7 ft. (60 – 210 cm.) tall, with the flower spike making up most of the height.

Identifying Characteristics: Common Mullein's large velvety leaves easily identify it. In the spring, the tall flower spike can also be used to identify it.

Location: We took this picture of Common Mullein growing in a clearing Cold Spring Park in Newton, MA.

History and Comments: Common Mullein was introduced from Europe. It is a weed and now grows ubiquitously in the United States, even under stressed conditions, such as from brick and concrete or out of mulch. Because of its furry, velvety leaves, people have used it for various purposes. Roman soldiers bathed the flower spikes in oil and then used them as torches, and Colonial Americans lined their stockings with them to help keep warm. It was also used for medicinal purposes.

    Unless otherwise specified, all text, photographs, and drawings are Copyright (c) by Shu-Yee Chen and Deborah Hamer 2003. No part of this page may be reproduced without prior written consent of the authors.