Verbascum blattaria (Moth Mullein)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Life cycle:biennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, fields, waste places, woodland edges, gardens
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Loose raceme 1 to 2 feet long at the top of the stem, with shorter racemes arising from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are about 1 inch across, saucer shaped with 5 petals fused at the base, the upper 2 petals slightly smaller than the lower 3.  In the center are 5 reddish-purple stamens with orange tips, the stamen stalks (filaments) covered in long, knobby, purple hairs. Petal color is usually yellow though commonly white or rarely pink, but the outer surface is often faintly pink tinged.

[photo of calyx] The calyx surrounding the flower has 5 narrow, pointed lobes and is densely covered in stalked or stalkless glands. Flower stalks are up to 3/8 inch long and also densely glandular. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the raceme up, usually with a few to several blossoms open at a time.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of lower leaves] First year plants form a basal rosette of shallowly lobed or toothed leaves up to 6 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Stem leaves form the second year, the lower leaves like the basal and stalkless or nearly so.

[photo of upper leaves and stem] Leaves become progressively smaller as they ascend the stem, the upper leaves lance-triangular with pointed tips and clasping bases. Stems are single from the base, unbranched, erect, ribbed, hairless below the flower cluster.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round capsule about 1/3 inch diameter that is densely glandular and longer than the persistent calyx. Inside are many tiny, blackish seeds.


Moth Mullein is a Eurasian introduction that is a common roadside weed and garden escapee in more southern and eastern states. It had only been recorded once in Minnesota, along a roadside in Beltrami County in 1999, and wasn't heard of in Minnesota again until we happened to notice a recent post on Facebook, asking for ID help on a plant that popped up in a native planting in suburban Scott County. The homeowner graciously allowed us to run down and photograph it before it was yanked (thank you, Jessica).

While the yellow form of Moth Mullein is supposedly the most common, white forms are not at all unusual. The large-flowered, loose racemes and varying leaf shapes are fairly distinctive, the combination making this easy to ID. The leaf bases do not extend down the stem like those of the related Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Scott County. Verbascum blattaria (fruit) by Keir Morse and Verbascum blattaria (yellow flowers) by Doug McClurg used under CC BY-NC 3.0.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Cathy Cardwell - Altura, Minnesota
on: 2021-05-23 18:21:10

Moth mullein.This plant was a "gift" for me purchased at a green house near Altura, MN. I had no idea what it was. I guess I should not plant it!

Posted by: Jason Husveth - May Township, Washington County
on: 2023-07-15 23:08:00

I found this plant in fruit several falls ago (circa 2016) in a horse pasture not far from where we live. And I finally revisited during the summer to collect a flowering specimen to determine the identity of the taxon. And it turned out to be this, Verbascum blattaria (oh well, it was fun learning a new plant).

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