T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Verbascum thapsus (Woolly Mullein)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Genus: Verbascum
Species: V. thapsus
Binomial name: Verbascum thapsus
Common name: Woolly Mullein, Great or Common Mullein

Verbascum thapsus is a species of mullein native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia, and introduced in the Americas and Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand it is found in river beds,dry stony ground and dry waste places.
It is a hairy biennial plant that can grow to 2 m or more tall. Its small yellow flowers are densely grouped on a tall stem, which bolts from a large rosette of leaves. It grows in a wide variety of habitats, but prefers well-lit disturbed soils, where it can appear soon after the ground receives light, from long-lived seeds that persist in the soil seed bank. It is a common weedy plant that spreads by prolifically producing seeds, but rarely becomes aggressively invasive, since its seed require open ground to germinate. It is a very minor problem for most agricultural crops, since it is not a very competitive species, being intolerant of shade from other plants and unable to survive tilling. It also hosts many insects, some of which can be harmful to other plants. Although individuals are easy to remove by hand, populations are difficult to eliminate permanently.
Verbascum thapsus is a dicotyledonous plant that produces a rosette of leaves in its first year of growth. The leaves are large, up to 50 cm long. The second year plants normally produce a single unbranched stem usually 1–2 m tall. In the East of its range in China, it is, however, only reported to grow up to 1.5 m tall.[3] The tall pole-like stems end in a dense spike of flowers[1] that can occupy up to half the stem length. All parts of the plants are covered with star-shaped trichomes. This cover is particularly thick on the leaves, giving them a silvery appearance.
It is widely used for herbal remedies with emollient and astringent properties. It is especially recommended for coughs and related problems, but also used in topical applications against a variety of skin problems. The plant was also used to make dyes and torches.



A young plant.

The upper surface of a leaf.

The underside of a leaf.