September 19, 2017

Stocking Stuffer

Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus - Photos courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus

Often topping 6 feet tall when in full bloom, Verbascum thapsus is a hard plant to miss. Common mullein is a non-native biennial herb found in old fields, along beaches and in disturbed sites. With its woolly leaves nearing a foot in length and erect stem covered with bright yellow flowers, mullein is part of the snapdragon family, Scrophulariaceae. According to the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Eastern Region,” mullein has had many purposes over the centuries, and not just medicinally for everything from earaches to sunburn to the croup. Roman soldiers dipped the stalks in grease and used them as torches. Native Americans lined their moccasins with the leaves to keep out the cold. The colonists used them for the same thing, although they stuffed the leaves into their stockings instead.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.