Verbascum thapsus L.

common mullein

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Common mullein is a biennial native to Eurasia and Africa that develops a basal rosette of felt-like leaves the first year, then bolts to heights of six feet or more. This plant was introduced in the mid eighteenth century as the source of a fish poison.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), cliffs, balds, or ledges, meadows and fields, ridges or ledges

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Flower petal color
yellow
Leaf type
the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
  • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
Number of sepals, petals or tepals
there are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
Fusion of sepals and petals
the petals or the sepals are fused into a cup or tube
Stamen number
5
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Fruit length
7–10 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Bulbils
    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers
    Anther opening
    the anthers have narrow slits or furrows that run cross-wise across the anthers
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is radially symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Cleistogamous flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on the plan
    Corolla morphology
    the flower has two prominent lips
    Corolla palate
    no
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    Epicalyx
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Epicalyx number of parts
    0
    Filament surface
    the filament has rough hairs or scales on it
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary, and lacks a hypanthium
    Flower diameter
    12–35 mm
    Flower petal color
    yellow
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    no
    Form of style
    the style is knob-like at the tip, and unbranched
    Fused stamen clusters
    NA
    Fusion of sepals and petals
    the petals or the sepals are fused into a cup or tube
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    NA
    Hypanthium
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Hypanthium length
    0 mm
    Inflorescence one-sided
    the flowers are arrayed in a spiral around the inflorescence axis or branches, or occur singly, or in several ranks
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    NA
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of branches in umbel
    0
    Number of carpels
    2
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals, petals or tepals
    there are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Perianth shape
    the perianth is rotate (platter-shaped, the corolla flattened, circular, with nearly horizontally spreading lobes)
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal and sepal colors
    yellow
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal folds or pleats
    the petals of the flower do not have folds or plaits
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    NA
    Petal number
    5
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    NA
    Raceme attachment (Veronica)
    NA
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Scales inside corolla
    no
    Sepal and petal color
    the sepals are different from the petals
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals are green or brown, and leaf-like in texture
    Sepal appendages
    the sepals do not have appendages on them
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    NA
    Sepal color
    green to brown
    Sepal length
    5–12 mm
    Sepal number
    5
    Sepal shape
    the sepal outline is lanceolate (lance-shaped; narrow, gradually tapering from the base to the tip)
    Sepal uniformity
    all the sepals are about the same size
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    • the sepals are fused to each other (not other flower parts), at least near their bases
    • the sepals are separate from one another
    Spur length
    0 mm
    Spur number
    NA
    Stamen attachment
    the stamens are attached at or near the bases of the petals or tepals
    Stamen lengths differ
    the stamens are didynamous (two long stamens and two short ones)
    Stamen morphology
    the stamens within a cycle differ in length or width
    Stamen number
    5
    Stamen position relative to petals
    the stamens are lined up with the sepals
    Stamen relative length
    anything
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not attached to one another
    Style petal-like
    the styles are not petal-like
    Style relative length
    the stigma protrudes beyond the mouth of the corolla
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
    • NA
    • the upper lip of the bilabiate corolla has two lobes
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene relative orientation
    NA
    Achene shape
    NA
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    NA
    Achene type
    NA
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule color (Viola)
    NA
    Capsule splitting
    the capsule splits by two main valves, teeth or pores
    Carpel beak length
    0 mm
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    NA
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Fruit length
    7–10 mm
    Fruit length relative to sepals
    the fruit is about the same length as its associated sepals
    Fruit locules
    two
    Fruit shape
    • the fruit is ellipsoid (widest in the middle and tapering to each end)
    • the fruit is ovoid (egg-shaped)
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Hair type on fruit
    • the hairs on the fruits appear tangled or woolly
    • the hairs on the fruits are branched
    Hairs on fruit
    the fruits have hairs on them
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    NA
    Mericarp length
    0 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    NA
    Other markings on berry
    NA
    Ovary stipe
    the ovary or fruit does not have a stipe
    Placenta arrangement
    the plant has axile placentation, in which the ovules are attached where the septa of a compound ovary are united, usually on the central axis, or to the septa themselves
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    0
    Seed surface
    the seed has parallel ridges on it (ribbed)
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap
    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    Lifespan
    the plant lives for two years
    Parasitism
    the plant is not parasitic
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Plants darken when dry
    no
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
  • Leaves
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    0
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    NA
    Final leaf segment length (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Final leaf segment length to width ratio (compound lvs only)
    0
    Final leaf segment width (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Hairs on leaf stalk
    the petiole has hairs on it
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hooked hairs on underside of leaf
    no
    Inflated hairs on leaf
    the leaf blade does not have inflated hairs on it
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf has a distinct leaf stalk (petiole)
    • the leaf has no stalk
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade has tangled or woolly-looking hairs
    Leaf blade length
    80–500 mm
    Leaf blade primary vein pattern
    the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the primary vein
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    • the leaf blade is obovate (egg-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the major veins form a net-like pattern due to splitting and rejoining
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip (it may or may not have secondary veins)
    Leaf blade width
    25–140 mm
    Leaf duration
    • the leaves drop off in winter (or they whither but persist on the plant)
    • the leaves remain green all winter
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf shiny
    the upper side of the leaf is dull or slightly shiny
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    • the leaves have leaf stalks
    • the leaves have no leaf stalks, but attach directly to the stem
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    • NA
    • the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk base
    the petiole base is narrow where it attaches to the stem
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    • the leaf blade margin has rounded teeth
    Leaf tip
    the tip of the leaf blade is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaf types
    There is a gradual change in appearance of the leaves from the base (or near the base) of the plant to those from further up on the stem, with leaves progressively changing as one moves higher on the stem (often becoming shorter, or less toothed/lobed, and/or with shorter petioles).
    Leaf variation
    the lower leaves are larger, toothier, and/or on longer stalks than the upper leaves
    Leaflet number
    0
    Leaflet petiolules
    NA
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    NA
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Stipels
    NA
    Stipule edges
    NA
    Stipule features
    NA
    Stipule fused to leaf stalk
    NA
    Stipule length
    0 mm
    Stipule shape
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • ridges or ledges
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of a smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branched tendrils
    NA
    Flowering stem cross-section
    the flowering stem is circular, or with lots of small angles so that it is roughly circular
    Hair between stem nodes
    the stem has hairs between the nodes
    Hairs between stem nodes
    • at least some of the hairs on the stem are branched
    • at least some of the hairs on the stem are tangled, matted or woolly
    Hooked hairs on stem between nodes
    no
    Leaves on stem
    there is at least one full leaf above the base of the flowering stem
    Plant height
    30–200 cm
    Stem hair distribution
    the hairs on the stem are distributed more of less uniformly
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright or angled outwards
    Tendril origin
    NA
    Tendrils
    the plant does not have tendrils
    Wings on stem
    the stem does not have wings on it

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Verbascum blattaria:
flowers sparse, the axis of the inflorescence visible, and hairs of plant branched and eglandular (vs. V. thapsus, with flowers dense, the axis of the inflorescence mostly concealed, and hairs of stem simple and glandular).

Genus

Verbascum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

6.  Verbascum thapsus L. E

common mullein. CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Fields, roadsides, waste areas, railroads, ledges, clearings.