Common mullein

Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), is this biennial a weed or an herb? To anyone finding mullein growing—profusely—in the yard, calling it a weed is kind. This plant (pictured to the left) started near the garden. Curious as to what it was (I had never seen nor heard of common mullein before), the plant was allowed to grow.

The first year, common mullein produces a “rosette” of leaves less than 6 inches tall and wide. During the second year, flower stalks are formed and the plant experiences a large growth spurt. This plant quickly reached almost 6 feet tall and about 2 feet in diameter at the base in less than three months. The flower stalks first bloomed in early summer. That’s when I decided to do some research and discovered that plant was common mullein and could quickly become a spreading nuisance.

Common mullein grows in most of the United States and southern Canada. According to the Ohio State University Extension, common mullein is native of Eurasia. Because the plant self-sows so easily, it is considered a weed. However, early settlers in North America purposely grew common mullein as an herb to treat health problems. The leaves were dried and used to brew tea or to create a poultice for the treatment of lung problems and coughs.