Scrophulariaceae / Figwort
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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)
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.
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.
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