Verbascum thapsus

Mullein - Verbascum thapsus
Middle Percha, Black Range
New Mexico, USA

Verbascum thapsus, Mullein, is a wide ranging common plant which is easy to identify.  The leaves of this species are large and wooly, the inflorescence is a spike of yellow flowers which often towers above anything around it.  It is so ubiquitous that it can be easy to forget that this is an exotic.  It is native to Eurasia and Northern Africa.

Mullein (a.k.a. Common Mullein and Great Mullein) is generally found in sunny spots since it is intolerant of shade.  This species produces many seeds and once established, a population, will generally sustain itself quite well.

There are three recognized subspecies and several known hybrids. 

Traditionally, this species has been used for a variety of medical purposes since it is both an emollient and astringent.  It was first introduced in North America in the early 1800’s, by 1839 it had spread westward to Michigan, and by 1876 to California.  The Native American Ethnobotany site of the University of Michigan at Dearborn has over 99 listings for the species, indicating that Native Americans quickly utilized its medicinal properties.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023