Common Mullein

Common_Mullein_jpgThis family (Scrophulariaceae) commonly called the Figwort or Snapdragon Family consists of 224 genera and 4,450 species of herbs and a few shrubs and trees.  Members of this family are cultivated as ornamental including Snapdragons, Slipper-Flowers and the Empress-Tree. This specie (thapus) was named for Thapsus, an ancient town in North Africa.  Mullein is derived from Latinmollis meaning soft and alluding to the “woolly” leaves of these plants.  Mollis is the root for mollify, emollient and mollusk–soft marine invertebrate creatures known as the “soft ones”. Roman soldiers dipped this plant in tallow to make torches. The thick down on Common Mullein can be used to make candlewicks. Miners in the American West prepared torches and candles from this plant.  Quaker women rubbed the leaf on their cheeks as rouge since it was forbidden to use rouge in these households. Native Americans smoked the dried leaves to treat asthma, sore throat, and consumption or as tobacco.

OtherCommonName:

Flannel Plant, Aaron’s Rod, Candlewick, Velvetplant

ScientificName:

Verbascum thapusus

Community:

Edge

PlantStatus:

Naturalized from Europe and western Asia

LifeSpan:

Biennial

PlantHeight:

up to 6 feet

FruitingTime:

July to October

Distribution:

Statewide in NJ

FloweringTime:

Late June to late September

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

First year--large gray-green rosette “felt” leaves on the surface of the ground ~ Second year--tall ridged stalk ending in long spike of yellow flowers growing from the center of rosette ~ Entire plant covered with velvety texture of hair