Mullein - Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) Clown's Lung Wort Candlewick Plant Herbal Medicinal Herb

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Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) Clown's Lung Wort Candlewick Plant Herbal Medicinal Herb


Height 5-10 ft

Common Mullein is known by many names: Great Mullein, Flannel Plant, Candlewick Plant, Hag's Taper, Velvet Dock, Velvet Plant, Clown's Lung-wort, Torches, Our Lady's Flannel, Jacob's Staff, Aaron's Rod, Wooly Mullein, and at least 21 other names.

Most types of mullein are perennials, some plants are biennials and come back for a couple of years, and a few mulleins are annuals. This variety is known as wooly mullein, and it is an herbaceous biennial (or short-lived perennial) with a deep tap root.

In the first year, plants are low-growing rosettes of soft plush leaves. The rosette whorl of oblong to lanceolate ( 4-12″ long and 1-5″ wide) grow out from the root crown at the soil surface; these bluish gray green leaves are also densely covered in hairs.

Vernalization (exposure to cold temperatures) is required to induce the plant into flowering the following spring. Mullein is a stand alone statement plant or they make a fantastic addition to cottage gardens and borders!

In the second year, plants produce a flower stalk 5-10 feet tall. The inflorescence is a spike-like raceme, typically singular, and sometimes branched. The alternating leaves on the flower stalk are larger at the base and get smaller in size towards the top.

The stalks' growth is indeterminate; the length of the flowering period is directly related to the height of the stalk, and taller stalks bloom longer. Blooms of small yellow 5 petal flowers are densely spiraled up the leafy spike. Flowers bloom a few at a time, throughout the summer, and mature on the stalk from the bottom to the top in successive spirals. Each individual flower opens before dawn and closes by mid-afternoon. White flowers are rare.

Flowers attract a wide variety of insects (bees, flies, butterflies and other insects, only short and long-tongued bees are effective in cross‑pollination). Flowers are also self pollinating; self pollination occurs at the end of the day if the flowers were not cross‑pollinated.

The fruit is a rounded capsule that splits into two valves at maturity. Each contains dozens of tiny six-sided brown seeds.  A single plant produces 200-300 seed capsules, each containing 500-800 seeds, which totals a staggering 100,000‑240,000 seeds per plant. Most seeds fall within a few feet of the parent plant, falling from the capsules when the flower stalk is moved by wind or a large animal. There are no adaptations for long distance dispersal. After flowering, the entire plant dies – there is no vegetative reproduction.     

The most popular type commercially used is common mullein (Verbascum thapsus); leaves are harvested near the bottom of the plant, and used either fresh, or dried to make various herbal products.

Medicinal Benefits:

All parts of the mullein plant are used in traditional medicine. Harvest roots in the first fall or following spring with a garden fork. Leaves can be hand pulled at any time during the growing season. Harvest flowers when in full bloom. Cut the upper 3-6" of the flower stalk. Parts can be used fresh or dry.

Mullein is used for cough, whooping cough, tuberculosis, bronchitis, hoarseness, pneumonia, earaches, colds, chills, flu, swine flu, fever, allergies, tonsillitis, and sore throat. Other uses include asthma, diarrhea, colic, gastrointestinal bleeding, migraines, joint pain, and gout.

Common mullein is found in many different habitats, occurring primarily in disturbed soils in full sun. brown seeds. Seeds do not germinate very well without light and only those seeds that lie at or near the soil surface will be able to germinate.

  • Full Sun
  • Cold Stratification: mullein seeds germinate best when exposed to a period of cold, moist conditions (cold stratification).
  • Direct sow mullein seed outdoors in fall where they will germinate the following spring. OR start seeds indoors in spring 6 weeks before the last frost. If started indoors, cold stratify seeds in a refrigerator for 4-6 weeks prior to planting. Sow seeds 8-12" apart on the soil surface and press lightly to settle.
  • Seeds will sprout in 12-15 days.
  • Transplant seedlings outdoors once danger of frost has passed.
  • Thin seedlings so that mature plants are 20-24" apart.
  • Harvest seeds when the capsules become brown; cut the stalk and place it upside down in a paper bag and shake; store seeds in a cool, dark and dry place.
  • Attracts bees, flies, butterflies and other insects
  • Seed Count: 1 gr