Thursday, December 13, 2007

Common Mullien

While we were out birding this weekend I noticed that after all the cold freezing weather there was some pretty yellow blooms of Verbascum thapsus or as I am familiar with its name the Common Mullien. I am not sure why but I just love this wild flower but I do. What brought my attention to this plant the first time was that I saw a Downy Woodpecker working over the flower stalk. That little Downy clung to the tall stalk and banged away at the stalk full of yellow flowers. I expected the flower stalk to give way at any time but it withstood the Downy's assault. You can see that the yellow blooms are pretty . If you have never noticed this plant before I bet if you took a good look at it you would fall in love with its bright yellow flowers. They form on a central stalk that can get as tall as 6'. Now that is an impressive stalk. They are quite strong and don't bow down to wind or rain. If you had them in your garden you wouldn't have to stake them.

I have seen all sorts of birds besides the Downy on it, such as Goldfinches, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren... The bees and bugs also flock to it.

You have to keep in mind that the ones I am showing you have been through some pretty rough weather and don't look their best.

They are a biennial so you don't get these tall flower spires until the second year. The first year you get a plant that is made up of big flannel textured leaves. I think they rival lambs ears in their beautiful way.

The top of this stalk is an unusual shape. It looks as though it has fanned out. Usually they are clyinder shaped all the way up.Even at the end of their life cycle I think they are intersting in a sculptural way. I have tried to grow them several times. I don't know why I can't get them to grow. They grow on road sides and in ground where nothing else will dare put a root down. I know they send a deep tap root when they do get started and you can't transplant them. So I have gathered seed once more to try to get a few to grow around in the garden. I as well as the birds and bees would enjoy them.

Are any of you thinking about growing some wild flowers? Do you have a particular favorite? If you have some questions about wild flowers the folks over at Gardening Gone Wild has posted some questions from their forum with answers by a professional that might be helpful.


  1. I've never seen mullien Lisa. Thanks for the educational post. The flowers really are pretty. Funny how they'll grow in the most unlikely places, yet when lovingly place, won't

  2. Those are so beautiful! Craig over at Ellis hollow has posted some mulleins over the past year as well, and I really would like to have some in mine, too.

    Do you think that maybe the creatures get to the seed before it has a chance to germinate for you?

  3. Yes Jayne these flowers are a mystery to me as to how to get them started.

    Blackswamp Girl I will have to see if Ican see Craigs posts on Common Mullien. Maybe he can tell me something about them for me to be able to get them started.

    I hadn't thought about the critters eating the seed before. That could be the answer.

  4. Fascinating! I think we have these wildflowers here but I'm not certain. Your photos make me want to go check it out - I'll keep you posted. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  5. those plants look interesting.

  6. I love how soft the leaves are of this plant! Great job with this!

  7. I'm with you, Lisa; I love mulleins, both the wild species and the cultivars. We have several different species and cvs here, and there's one wild species. Bees and butterflies love them too. Some of the cultivars are shortlived perennials, which is a bit of a drawback, but they're wonderful nonetheless.

  8. I too love these "weeds" which are common in this part of the Ozarks. I usually mow around them so that they can bloom in the second year.

  9. Verbascum thapsus is one of my favourite wild flowers. I've been trying to grow it from seed but until now was unable to. I'll have to keep on trying. Please keep us posted on your progresses

  10. Very interesting plant. I wonder if they attract hummingbirds, too. I'd like to have one grow here because of its unique look and strength. The last photo reminds me of desert cactus.

  11. Mary, I have seen hummers working the blooms too.

    I will keep you posted Gintoino.

    Way to go Marvin. I wish I had to mow around them. :/

    Jodi, good to see you out and aobut. I hope you are feeling better.

  12. I had a huge common mullien this year (towering way over my head by about 3 feet!). I also discovered moth mullien...which is closely related but looking at them you would never guess!

    I've read that in Medieval times, the stalk of common mullien would be wrapped with the leaves and soaked in wax or oil to use as a torch light. I was eyeballing that mullien this past summer thinking about giving it a try...alas, I got to busy...maybe next year! Love your photos!

  13. Thanks Cyndy. It would be interesting to use them as torches. I have read about that before too.

  14. I just discovered this unusual plant growing outside my living room window
    and after reading about it, I realized that it seems out of its norm. The soil is very damp and it has found home with roses and in a shady area. Heard they like it dry and sandy and sunny. So, I think it's pretty cool. We have left it alone to see how high it will get. It is now almost to the porch roof.


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