Person Author: Lajos Szabo Calender August 2, 2012 Posted Tags: , Comment No Comments

Lots of different names

Verbascum thapsus is the scientific name of the great or common mullein. Believe it or not it is called Cowboy Toilet Paper in the western USA. I found that very funny but understandable because of the leaves of this great plant are so soft and fuzzy. The light green – grey leaves are covered with hundreds or probably thousands of tiny hair. That is the reason why it is called Hare’s-beard at places, but apparently mullein had over 40 different names in the 19th century.


Mullein is biennial. The plant itself forms a rosette and flowers only the second year, aka a biennial plant, sometimes referred to as perennial, well you just have to try it.

Mullein is native to Asia, Europe and northern Africa. The plant does not like too much competition so you more likely to find it on disturbed land where there is not much undergrowth. The flower spike can grow 2 metres tall and have a long flowering period and the small yellow blooms attract hundreds of tiny insect to your garden. Mullein is very drought tolerant, no watering needed once you buy the plants just plant them out into ordinary garden soil and they will grow happily. (Just seen some massive plants in my local garden centre) The plants are stunning and really worth having in your garden or allotment plot; and good if you have an urgent business to do in the bushes too.

Thousands of seeds

Verbascum needs winter dormancy in order to flower the second year. The cold causes starch degradation in the roots of the plants which will stimulate the plant to produce flower spike the following spring. Mullein self seed pretty badly so you might end up with hundreds of rosettes if you have a flowering plant going to seed in your garden. One plant can produce up to 300,00 seeds and the seeds can keep their germination for decades, so I was you I would remove the flower spike after it finished flowering.

Mullein as medicinal herb

The whole plant itself is very useful, sometimes called herbaceous perennial, or indeed a medicinal herb. The leaves used centuries ago to make one’s cheeks red. Herbal tea made from the leaves used to treat respiratory illness; help clear congestion and clear lungs. Mullein flowers provide a soothing and cleansing effect to the skin if one makes a cleansing wash out of them. Infuse the flowers in olive oil and add beeswax for a great softening, moisturizing cream. And the root is used to treat urinary tract issues. The long tap root is hard to harvest, you would have to dig deep to have a good crop of it.

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