Common Name: Common Mullein
Scientific Name: Verbascum thapsus
Alternative Names: Great Mullein, Aaron’s Rod, Adam’s Flannel, Our Lady’s Candle.
Range: Throughout British Isles
Habitat: Generally on open ground in disturbed soil
Key Identification Features: Biennial up to 2 m tall. Large pale green-grey, woolly, oval or eliptical leaves with winged stalks arranged in a basal rosette in first year. Flower spike in second year ends in a densely packed terminal spike occasionally with smaller side spikes. Flowers yellow with 5 petals. Fruit is oval capsule.
Confusion Species: Other species of Mullein all look similar. Dark Mullein V. nigrum is smaller and has an angled rather than round stem and the leaves are dark above. White Mullein V. lychnitis also has an angled stem, with shorter, darker leaves which are hairless on their upper surface. Moth Mullein V. blattaria is hairless and Hoary Mullein V. pulverulentum is similar to Common Mullein but the leaves have more heart shaped lobes at the base and the mealy wool on the leaves is easily rubbed off, also the flower spike many branched to form a pyramid shape.
Medicinal Uses: Contains mucilage, saponins, bitter glycosides including aucubin. The flowers can either be used as an infusion for sore throats or as a tincture for dry and chronic coughs. The leaves can be used in a similar way and have also been smoked for asthma and tuberculosis. The flowers can be infused in oil and used to treat ear infections.
Other Uses: Sometimes referred to as the “Andrex plant” the leaves make a good alternative to toilet paper. The flower spike can be used as a hand drill for friction fire lighting.
Maybe, Richard. “Flora Britannica” (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996)
Ody, Penelope. “The Herb Society’s Complete Medicinal Herbal” (Dorling Kindersley, 1993)
Rose, Francis. “The Wild Flower Key” (Frederick Warne, 1981)
Bruton-Seal, Julie & Seal, Matthew. “Hedgerow Medicine” (Merlin Unwin Books, 2008)