Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein)
|Also known as:||Great Mullein|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; fields, along roads, waste areas|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 6 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: UPL NCNE: UPL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A club-shaped spike up to 2 feet long densely packed with ¾ inch yellow flowers. Individual flowers have 5 petals, the 2 lower petals slightly larger than the upper 3, and only a few flowers are open at any one time. In the center are 5 orange-tipped stamens and a single, curved, green style; 3 of the stamens have stalks (filaments) covered in long hairs. The 5 sepals are triangular and densely hairy. Smaller spikes may develop near the base of the main spike, but a single spike is common.
Leaves are large, up to 15 inches long and 5 inches across, widely spreading at the base, becoming progressively smaller and erect as they ascend the stem. The blade is thick and soft like felt or flannel, densely covered in short hairs. The shape is generally oval, with a blunt or softly pointed tip.
The leaf base tapers to a “winged” stalk that extends down the stem; upper leaves are stalkless. The leaf edges may have small rounded teeth and may be a little wavy. Attachment is alternate. Stems are single, unbranched and densely hairy.
Common Mullein is a weedy species of dry, disturbed soils, often seen in large groups on roadsides, empty lots, railroads, gravel pits, and degraded fields. While weedy, it's not an especially problematic pest in high quality habitat and can be managed with a bit of hand pulling, the taproot usually coming up without a lot of effort. The dead, brown stems with the remains of the flower cluster persist through winter and into spring, reminding me of a graveyard when any quantity of plants is encountered. The first year, Common Mullein is just a rosette of basal leaves, 1 to 2 feet across with the flowering stem bolting the second year. Common Mullein has gone by about 50 different common names, including Velvet Plant, Flannel Plant, Hare's Beard, and others that refer to the leaves. Common Mullein is likely one of the under-reported weeds in Minnesota.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Common Mullein plant
- Common Mullein plants
- roadside Common Mullein with Spotted Knapweed and Hoary Alyssum
- Common Mullein graveyard
- spring rosette with Bull Thistle
- flower close-up
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, Cook and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?