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Verbascum_thapsus - L.                
Common Name Great Mullein, Common mullein, Aaron's Rod, Flannel Plant, Hag Taper, Mullein, Torches, Velvet Plant
Family Scrophulariaceae
Known Hazards The leaves contain rotenone and coumarin, though the quantities are not given[222]. Rotenone is used as an insecticide and coumarin can prevent the blood from clotting[K]. Hairs on the leaves can act as an irritant[222].
Habitats Sunny positions in uncultivated fields and waste ground, especially on dry soils[7, 13, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain, temperate Asia to China.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Columnar, Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Verbascum_thapsus is a BIENNIAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.

USDA hardiness zone : 3-8

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Verbascum_thapsus Great Mullein, Common mullein, Aaron
Verbascum_thapsus Great Mullein, Common mullein, Aaron
Edible Uses                                         
An aromatic, slightly bitter tea can be made by infusing the dried leaves in boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes[183]. A sweeter tea can be made by infusing the fresh or dried flowers[183].
Medicinal Uses
Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Great mullein is a commonly used domestic herbal remedy, valued for its efficacy in the treatment of pectoral complaints[4]. It acts by reducing the formation of mucus and stimulating the coughing up of phlegm, and is a specific treatment for tracheitis and bronchitis[254]. The leaves and the flowers are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant and vulnerary[4, 7, 13, 21, 46, 53, 165, 222]. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhoea[4, 238]. The plant combines well with other expectorants such as coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris)[254]. Externally, a poultice of the leaves is a good healer of wounds and is also applied to ulcers, tumours and piles[4, 222, 254]. Any preparation made from the leaves needs to be carefully strained in order to remove the small hairs which can be an irritant[7]. The plant is harvested when in flower and is dried for later use[238]. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops, or as a local application in the treatment of piles and other mucous membrane inflammations[4, 222, 238]. This infusion is also strongly bactericidal[4]. A decoction of the roots is said to alleviate toothache and also relieve cramps and convulsions[4]. The juice of the plant and powder made from the dried roots is said to quickly remove rough warts when rubbed on them[4]. It is not thought to be so useful for smooth warts[4]. The seeds are slightly narcotic and also contain saponins[4]. A poultice made from the seeds and leaves is used to draw out splinters[4]. A decoction of the seeds is used to soothe chilblains and chapped skin[7]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh leaves[4]. It is used in the treatment of long-standing headaches accompanied with oppression of the ear[4].
Other Uses
A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers by boiling them in water[4]. When used with dilute sulphuric acid they produce a rather permanent green dye, this becomes brown with the addition of alkalis[4, 13, 100, 168]. An infusion of the flowers is sometimes used to dye the hair a golden colour[4, 200]. The flowering stems can be dipped in wax and used as torches[53, 106, 124]. The down on the leaves and stems makes an excellent tinder when quite dry[4, 53, 115]. It is also used as an insulation in shoes to keep the feet warm[4, 200] and to make wicks for candle[1, 4, 13, 100, 115, 124]. One report says that the leaves contain rotenone, though it does not say in what quantity[222]. Rotenone is used as an insecticide[K].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Border. An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most well-drained soils, including dry ones, and prefers a sunny position[200]. Dislikes shade and wet soils[200]. Thrives on chalk[200]. Prefers a light soil[200]. Hybridizes with other members of this genus, though the progeny are usually sterile[200]. A very ornamental plant, it often self-sows, especially on dry calcareous soils[53, 124]. Special Features:Attracts birds, Attractive foliage, Edible, Not North American native, Invasive, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for dried flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed - sow late spring to early summer in a cold frame and only just cover the seed[200]. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into individual pots and plant them out in late summer. The seed has a long viability[200].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[13]Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants.
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[53]De. Bray. L. The Wild Garden.
Interesting reading.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[106]Coon. N. The Dictionary of Useful Plants.
Interesting reading but short on detail.
[115]Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
[124]RHS. The Garden. Volume 113.
Snippets of information from the magazine of the RHS, including details on Podophyllum, Canna and Protea species.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[168]Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Robert Gergulics Sat Apr 11 2009
Photos Here.

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