Learn / Ask The Landscape Professional
I have a HUGE weed growing in my yard; what is it, and should I be concerned?
What you have in your yard is a weed called
Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). It doesn't
like shade and only grows in the sun in open areas,
like fields and along roadsides. It thrives in dry,
sandy soil and is very drought-resistant. Mullein is
a "pioneer plant", i.e., one that first shows up in an
open space before other plants start to grow. Once
grasses start growing, they will shade out the Mullein
and it will die.
As you have realized, Mullein is easy to spot
because it can reach 10 feet tall and is topped with
bright yellow flowers about an inch wide with five
petals. You will see them blooming all summer long,
but only a few flowers at a time.
While it is not harmful, some people can be allergic
and become irritated by the plant's fine hairs, so be
cautious. Over time it has been used for a variety of
medicinal purposes such as teas made from the roots
and leaves to treat respiratory problems and coughs.
Native Americans used it topically to treat a variety
of injuries, and the Romans even used it to dye
both women's hair and cloth yellow. Speaking of
the Romans, they also took the entire Mullein plant,
dipped it in animal fat and used it for their torches.
Mullein is biennial, which means it lives for two years then dies. In those two
years, however, it is producing a huge number of seeds. Mullein can produce over
100,000 seeds in a year. If that's not bad enough, the seeds can lie dormant in the
soil in almost any conditions and last 100 years just waiting for sunny conditions to
occur! It has a tap root and is easy to pull up by hand. Even so, once Mullein gets
established it is virtually impossible to get rid of completely.
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About Linda Lillie
Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier
landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry
service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of
Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national
award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.