Verbascum 

(ver-bass' cum)

Common name: Mullein

Family: Scrophulariaceae, Figwort

Height x width: 3-6' x 1-2'

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: alternate, usually in a basal rosette, often soft and sometimes densely wooly

Flowers: often a spike, often yellow but may be red to purple to white depending on species; summer

Hardiness: zones 5 or 6 to 8, depending on species

Soil: most, tolerates poor

Light: sun

Pests and Problems: spider mites

Landscape habit, uses: borders, scattered through meadows, herb, foliage

Other interest: Aaron's rod, thapsus, is an ancient plant with uses going back to Greeks; the erect stems dipped in tallow were used as candles, with the entire inflorescence so treated used as a processional torch; Romans used it as a hair dye and Middle Age peasants used the downy leaves to line footware; seeds were fed to fish to make them sleepy and easier to catch, and seeds have been used as a narcotic for humans; it has been used medicinally to treat bronchial congestion when smoked, as an infusion for mouth and throat inflammation, and as a tincture from dried leaves to treat earache and migraine; native to southern Europe and Asia, depending on species, they have become naturalized in the U.S., especially thapsus which is hardy to zone 3 and often considered a roadside weed

Other culture: easy, tolerates wet and cold soils

Propagation: seeds (often result in variable types), spring root cuttings of desirable types

Species:

Those marked * are most common in U.S. commerce.
 
Species zones height flowers foliage other
blatteria, Moth M. 5-8 4-6' yellow green biennial
bombyciferum 6-8 3-5' sulfur yellow white biennial
*chaxii, Nettle-leaved M. 5-8 2-3' gray-green gray-green short-lived perennial
*densiflorum 3-6' 5-8 yellow gray-green leaf bases run down stem
leianthum 7-8 6-8' yellow gray-green wooly below, biennial
*olympicum, Olumpic M. 6-8 3-5' yellow white large overall
phomoides 5-8 1-6' yellow gray-green biennial
*phoeniceum, Purple M. 6-8 2-4' purple, white dark green flowers early summer
thapsus, Aaron's Rod 3-8 4-6' yellow white as for species
widemannianum 7-8 3-5' purple, violet white biennial

 


Cultivars:

The following are found in U.S. commerce, with those marked * most common. If the species is not given, these are hybrids.
 
Cultivar species flowers other
*'Album' chaixii white, mauve eyes  
'Arctic Summer' bombyciferum yellow silvery white
'Cotswold Queen'   terra-cotta, maroon stamens 3-4'
*'Pink Domino'   rosy pink, dark eye 3-4'
'Polar Summer':'Arctic Summer'      
'Royal Highland'   apricot yellow 3'
'Silberkandelaber':'Silver Candelabra'      
'Silver Candelabra'   bright yellow 4-6', white wooly
       


©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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