Common Mullein: Verbascum thapsus
||Weed Description: A biennial that may reach as much as 7 feet in height with
large woolly leaves and a long spike with many showy yellow flowers. Common mullein
was brought to America by the Puritans, who used the plant as a medicinal herb. Teas and
ointments made from the leaves of this weed continued to be used for many years as a
cure for lung diseases, rheumatism, burns, rashes, and earaches. Common
mullein is primarily a weed of pastures, hay fields, roadsides, right-of-ways, and
abandoned areas. It is found throughout the United States except for the upper great
|Seedlings: Cotyledons are
spatula-shaped. First true leaves have many soft hairs and are oval in outline with
only slightly wavy margins. Subsequent leaves are also densely hairy and have more
||Leaves: Leaves initially
develop as a basal rosette during the first year of growth and then occur alternately
along the flowering stem during the second year of growth. All leaves are covered in
hairs, to the point that leaves are most often described as being 'woolly'. Rosette
leaves are oblong in outline, ranging from 6 to18 inches in length. Leaves become
progressively smaller up the flowering stem.
|Stems: Erect, unbranched, occurring
during the second year of growth. Stems may reach as much as 6 feet in height and
are also densely hairy.
taproot and a fibrous root system.
||Flowers: Many flowers occur in
a dense spike at the end of the flowering stem. These spikes may reach as much as 20
inches in length. Flowers are yellow in color, approximately 1 inch in diameter, and
consist of five petals.
oval capsule, approximately 6 mm in diameter.
The rosette growth habit, large 'woolly' leaves and stems, and flowering stems with many
yellow flowers are all characteristics that help in the identification of common
mullein. Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)
is closely related to common mullein, however this weed is generally smaller and has
leaves without hairs and toothed leaf margins unlike common mullein. Additionally,
the flowers of common mullein are yellow and do not occur on peduncles (flower stalks),
whereas those of moth mullein or yellow and purple or white and purple in color and do
occur on peduncles.