Index- plants in this Family
Scrophulariaceae / Figwort
Mullein, Common (Verbascum thapsus)
Mullein, Common is also known as Woolly Mullein and Flannel Plant.

Plant Type: This is a non-native herbaceous plant, it is a biennial which can reach a height of 2 Meters (7 feet ) .
Leaves: The leaves are alternate. Leaves can reach 40cm in length (16inches). The leaves, which are entire and run down the stem, feel like velvet.
Flowers: The flowers have 5 Regular Parts. They are yellow sometimes white. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into late fall.
Habitat: Fields, fencerows, waste places and disturbed areas.
Range: Throughout temperate North America.

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Native to Europe Mullein has been naturalized in the U. S. since the arrival of the earliest colonist. Seeds of Common Mullein can remain viable in the soil for hundreds of years and seeds that become deeply buried may germanate when exposed by excavation or errosion. The first year or two the plant produces only a rosette of basal leaves and will only send up a stalk when those leaves reach sufficient size. The name comes the latin word molis which means soft and refers to the velvety leaves.

Lore: The flowers of some Mulleins have been used for centuries to make dye. The women of ancient Rome used it to dye their hair a golden color and it is still used in cosmetics and to flavor some liqueurs.(Volák & Stodola) Since the leaves are thick and soft and have certain healing properties a hiker may put a leaf inside a boot to help prevent or sooth a blister. Historically it is known that it was used to insulate feet aganist the cold. There are accounts of the leaves being smoked and used in sweat lodges. Mullein seeds and perhaps the leaves contain rotenone which is sold as an insecticide and is used to poison fish both to harvest them for food and by some wildlife agencys to 'improve' fish populations.

Legend has it that buring mullein could keep witches away and contrdictory to that is the myth that witches were fond of it. Another myth says that wearing the leaves could insure conception and still another that it would prevent conception.(Dobelis)

Medical Uses: Few plants boast such a variaty of medical uses. Many accounts of Native Americans using of the plant medicinally can be found, but, since it was introduced from Europe it is likely that they first learned to use it from settlers. Mullein contains large amounts of mucilage making it soothing to mucous membrains. It is also an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory. Leaf tea has been used to treat coughs, colds, asthma and bronchitis. In Europe the root extract has long been used to treat toothache and there are accounts of Native Americans tying the roots around the necks of children who where toothing. Oil extract of the flowers is used for earache. The leaves have been used externally to treat various wounds and sores. Warning: Contains Coumarin which was banned by the FDA as a food additive in 1940, due to studies showing liver toxicity. There is also some evidence that it may be carcinogenic. The seeds contain rotenone which is an insecticide and fish poison.

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves



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