One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Looks like Nutmeg had a goof yesterday and assigned the wrong date for the blog. Sorry for the mishap, but the next two days are my columns, so we’ll move on with our mystery and let her have a day off on Tuesday!

We don’t have these flowers right in the neighborhood, but it’s fairly common along our Virginia roadsides.

Mystery #65

And guesses?


This wildflower is very noticeable along roadways, because it grows tall, up to six feet: Common Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus.

Common Mullein

We squirrels don’t climb it—heh, heh—nor do we see too much of it, because it likes land that’s open. In fact, Miz Flora says it’s one that seeds well in ground that’s been plowed up, which unfortunately we see way too much of in our DC suburbs. Mullein has a whole host of uses, but she warned me not to go into those in case some of you humans took it into your heads to try them—her words, not mine.

But one she did give me permission to tell you the soft leaves were used by early humans to line their moccasins, and the dried stalks of flower heads were dipped in fat or wax to make torches. 

Common Mullein

Hmm, maybe that wasn’t the best thing to let out either.

New note: Check out the comments for this week’s mystery. Common Mullein is an introduced species, one found throughout North America. We’ve got a couple of links to more information.

7 thoughts on “One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

  1. Yellow hollyhocks, I have never seen yellow ones. I have some growing beside my garage in different shades of pink. An old time flower; many people don’t know what they are now.

  2. Thanks for identifying this! We have one of these in our garden in Berkeley, CA and have been wondering what it is. It would be good to clarify that it isn’t a native American plant–according to Wikipedia, it was introduced in North America fairly early by Europeans, so is now widespread in the U.S and Canada, but it’s originally a Eurasian native and is considered to be a noxious weed in some parts of the U.S.

    • Hey Brian,
      Thanks for pointing this out. The wildflower guide Miz Flora uses didn’t say anything about native or not. While Wiki is a good site, I thought I ought to check the USDA listing, too. Common Mullein is indeed listed as ‘I’ (Introduced). I read it can take over an area. Thanks for chiming in–this is how we all learn more!

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