Verbascum thapsus, Common Mullein

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species November 12, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Verbascum thapsus, Common Mullein

Common mullein is a biennial forb native to Eurasia and Africa. Plants are unbranched and can grow to more than 6.6 ft. (2 m) tall. First-year plants develop as a basal rosette of felt-like leaves. Basal leaves are 4-12 in. (10.2-30.5 cm) long, 1-5 in. (2.5-12.7 cm) wide, and covered with woolly hairs. The plant bolts in the second year. Flowering occurs in June to August, when five-petaled, yellow flowers develop at the apex of the shoot. Cauline (stem) leaves are decurrent, alternate, and decrease in size toward the apex. The fruit is an ovoid capsule that splits releasing many seeds that germinate in water. Common mullein was introduced to North America in the mid-1700s as a fish poison.

What are invasive species and why should we be concerned about them? 


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Scrophulariales > Scrophulariaceae > Verbascum thapsus L.

Synonym(s): big taper, flannel mullein, flannel plant, great mullein, mullein, velvet dock, velvet plant, woolly mullein

Verbascum thapsus - USDA PLANTS Profile

Distribution Maps

Common mullein - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important 

Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way and place to report the occurrence of an invasive species? 

 How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS.

Cooperative Extension Offices - Find your local Cooperative Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Plant

Common mullein is a biennial forb that is unbranched and can grow to more than 6.6 ft. (2 m) tall.

common mullein common mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California-Davis,   bugwood.org

 Theodore Webster, USDA Agricultural Research              Service, bugwood.org

Foliage

First-year plants develop as a basal rosette of felt-like leaves. Basal leaves are 4-12 in. (10.2-30.5 cm) long, 1-5 in. (2.5-12.7 cm) wide, and covered with woolly hairs. Cauline (stem) leaves are decurrent, alternate, and decrease in size toward the apex.

common mullein common mullein
Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, bugwood.org Bonnie Million, National park Service, bugwood.org

Flower

Flowering occurs in June to August, when five-petaled, yellow flowers develop at the apex of the shoot.

common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) common mullein
Forest & Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, bugwood.org Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California-Davis,   bugwood.org

Fruit

The fruit is a ovoid capsule that splits releasing many seeds.

common mullein common mullein
Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, bugwood.org Ken Chamberlain, Ohio State University, bugwood.org

Native Species That Can Resemble Common Mullein

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

Additional Images for Common Mullein

Common mullein - Images at Invasive.org

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control process, always refer to the product label.

United States Land-Grant University System - Find your land-grant university's college of agriculture, Cooperative Extension office, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA.

Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas - Plant Conservation Alliance

Element Stewardship Abstract - The Nature Conservancy

Weed of the Week - USDA Forest Service


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.