As I drive through the countryside I see so many wildflowers ready to bloom or blooming. The white faces of wild daisies dot the many roadways as do the purple vetch and the yellow black- eyed Susan. It’s Mullein however that caught my eye the other day as I wondered what plant to feature this month. While there are many wildflowers to choose from, Mullein, standing tall and erect, just showing its yellow flowers on its tall stalk, grabbed my attention.
Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, root
The photo above shows mullein in its first year. Broad velvety grey leaves form a rosette that can easily catch ones eye when on a hike or by a gardens edge. The photo to the right shows the second year growth. This biennial shoots up a tall stalk sometimes reaching six to eight feet that then begins to display small yellow flowers near the top. Soft grey leaves can be 12-15″ long.
Where found: Europe, West and Central Asia and North Africa; likes dry soils and often seen in disturbed areas. Mullein migrated to US along with early settlers. For example, I have seen Mullein grow abundantly throughout California’s mountainous areas, the mountains near Flagstaff AZ and here on the East coast.
Leaf System: the leaf arrangement of the Mullein is botanically interesting. Hairs that cover the leaves so thickly and give it this velvety feeling act as a protective coat to the plant. Since they tend to be found in dry soils, this thickness of the leaf helps the plant from giving off too much moisture. They also act as a deterrent to creeping insects and grazing animals as they can set up an intense irritation in the animals mucous membranes so these critters will leave the Mullein alone.
While Mullein tea is often recommended for coughs and colds it must be strained before consuming. These tiny hairs can cause irritation to the mouth.
The flowers give a lot of pollen and you will find many bees and other insects enjoying mullein flower nectar. These flowers are often gathered in a small jar and then filled with olive oil. Let sit for a few weeks and then strain. Mullein flower oil is often used for swimmer’s ear or ear irritations.
Please not: do not place any liquid into the ear if one suspects a ruptured ear drum.
Mullein’s tall stalks, velvety grey green leaves, bright yellow flowers are hard to miss on our roadsides. This plant has a rich history of medicinal use. For more information check out At the Garden’s Gate found below.