Verbascum thapsus

Common Mullein

Botanical description: Verbascum Thapsus is a highly adaptable biennial that has naturalized across North America from origins in Eurasia. Mullein is tolerant of most growing conditions provided there is open ground for germination and full sun. In cities, common mullein can thrive in challenging sites, even growing from cracks in the pavement. This resiliency is due in part to its thick, fleshy taproot that stabilizes the plant while absorbing moisture and nutrients at great depths. Its low growth mitigates the flow of rain water, catching sediment and small debris headed for storm sewers. The distinctive rosette of fuzzy foliage emerges in the spring and its tall flower spikes can be seen in late summer, rising from asphalt everywhere. Each, small yellow flower lasts for a single day, but the succession of bloom from bottom to top occurs over the span of two months or more, with hundreds of individual blossoms. Thousands of seeds shake out of the dry capsules as the stalk sways in the wind or is moved by the force of birds that roost on the tip. Seeds are not broadcast far from the parent and plants are often seen in small colonies. Its soft fuzzy leaves are used in hummingbird nests and also persist into late autumn providing insulation for insects.