Sunday, February 1, 2009


Hello! I went down to the study to look for a genealogy book and what did I espy but two books that really looked out of place. My husband has been buying books on plants!!  Could it be that he is studying the flora in secret. Let's see what he says when he notices I have discovered this purchase.

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. 


  1. Jenny,
    Don't tell him that you know!!
    Just pat him on the back when he comes up with some 'unexpected' plant knowledge ;-)

    That is the stage when I think mullein is attractive. As soon as the spikes appear I go off it.

    Very nice plant story. The constituents sound like a cousin of warfarin.

    You said it was a favourite of the Duchess. Is she no longer with us? I have always admired her.

    BTW, what would the customs say when you arrived back from the UK with your rucksack bulging with good old Cheshire grit :-)

  2. Joco- Over the years I have encouraged an interest in flowers- what with trips to every garden we can visit when we travel. D recently went on a fishing trip and among the photos he took were some of flowers! I agree with you once the mullein starts to look unattractive out it comes. I wasn't sure which duchess liked the mulleins- possibly the current one but maybe the dowager.
    I've brought stranger things than gravel back with me.

  3. I really admired the mullein I saw in various Austin gardens last year. Could I beg some seeds from you to plant next fall?

  4. No problem MSS. There will be trillions!

  5. What interesting information about the Mullein. Now I want to research it!

  6. I loved all this "back story" on mullein.

    And I don't think anyone could be around you for too long and not develop an interest in plants and flowers and gardening!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  7. I'm amused by the backstory on the mullein, and am making many jokes to myself about rosy cheeks.

    I've never looked closely at a mullein before, and I'm struck by how much the form of the rosette looks like a fuzzy agave. I'd grow it just for that!