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Great Mullein
Verbascum thapsus

In ancient times (I mean, I don’t know when exactly) the dried stalks of this plant were dipped in wax or tallow and used as torches. Basically ye olde tiki torch.

Native Americans and American colonists lined their shoes with leaves from the plant to keep out the cold, and it has been used for many different kinds of medicinal uses for hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

I think of it as a giant lambs ear, a fuzzy wuzzy plant, until it sends up it’s giant stalk and then it’s actually kind of scary (because it’s so tall!)

Alternate Names: Wooly Mullein
Size: 3'-7' tall
Family: Scrophulariaceae (Figwort family)
Habitat: Full sun in clay or slightly stony soil - likes disturbed areas.
Identification: From IllinoisWildflowers.info: During the 1st year, this biennial plant consists of a rosette of basal leaves about 1-2' across. During the 2nd year, it becomes 3-7' tall and is usually unbranched. Occasionally, one or two side stems may develop in the upper half of the plant. These stems are covered with downy white hairs. The alternate leaves are up to 12" long and 4" across, becoming progressively smaller and more narrow as they ascend the central stem. They are obovate or oblong-ovate, smooth or slightly crenate along the margins (which are sometimes wavy), and covered with fine downy hairs. The lower leaves taper gradually to a narrow winged base, while the upper leaves are partially decurrent against the stem. The dense branched hairs provide the foliage with a color that is whitish or greyish green. The central stem terminates in a dense spike of flowers about ½–2' long. Each flower is about ¾" across and consists of 5 pale yellow petals, 5 hairy green sepals, 5 stamens, and a pistil. The 3 upper stamens are covered with white or yellow hairs, while the 2 lower stamens are hairless. The blooming period usually occurs during the summer and lasts about 1½ months. Only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time.
All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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