Meanwhile, it was a wonderful day to be out in the garden. The mullein, Verbascum thapsus, came through the heavy freezes we had this week with flying colors. Many gardeners would not entertain this plant in the garden, and I have to admit that it requires control lest it completely take over. The mullein is probably more at home growing in the disturbed areas along the road side, and that is where I saw it the first time. I spotted a lovely rosette of leaves growing on the side of the road at the bottom of our street. Later on in the year it sent up a flower stalk and I saved some of the seeds. From then on I have had mulleins growing in the garden. They pop up in the most unexpected places. This one is growing alongside the raised beds in the vegetable garden. The mullein, which belongs to the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, produces this soft rosettes of leaves which grow close to the ground. The flower stalk can be as tall as 6' and produces thousands of seeds after the yellow flowers fade. I am careful to remove the stalk before the seeds fall to the ground.
Many years ago we were hiking to Betatakin, in the Navaho National Monument, and our Navaho Guide was identifying plants used by the indians. She described the mullein as a plant that was used for baby's diapers. The plant was also used by the Quaker ladies. Unable to use makeup they would rub the leaf of the mullein on their faces to achieve a rosy look. One has to wonder about the baby's bottom. The plant also has a history of medicinal uses despite the fact that it contains the poisons coumarin and rotenone. Coumarin is an effective blood thinner and rat poison! The plant is native to Eurasia and was brought to America for medicinal purposes.
The gardeners at Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, were not allowed to remove mulleins because it was a favorite flower of the duchess.