This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
In Interglacial beds at West Wittering, traces of Mullein have been discovered, thus establishing its ancient origin. It is known to-day in the N. Temperate Zone in Europe, N. and W. Asia, as far as the Himalayas, and in N. America is an introduction. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, Severn provinces; in S. Wales, except in Radnor and Cardigan; in N. Wales, except in Montgomery and Merioneth; throughout the Trent province; in the Mersey province, except in Mid Lancs; in the Humber, Tyne. and Lakes district; in the W. Lowlands, except in Wigtown; in the E. Lowlands, except in Peebles, Selkirk; in the E. Highlands, except in Mid Perth, Kincardine, N. Aberdeen, Banff; Dumbarton, Clyde Islands, S. Ebudes, E. Sutherland, Caithness. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Mullein is xerophytic and addicted to dry places. It is extremely local, and is very often an escape, being largely grown in gardens. It may be found in woods, on slopes of stony hills, and in such habitats may be indigenous. It is a tall, handsome plant, with an erect, simple stem, bearing leaves, woolly on both sides, as also is every part of the stem, the leaves running down the stem, scalloped, the upper ones acute, oblong, egg-shaped. The first name refers to the downy1 character of the leaves, the second relating to its supposed first name.
The flowers are yellow, borne on long, leafy spikes, dense, with wheel-shaped corolla, the flower-stalks less than the calyx, the corolla twice the latter. The anther-stalks are woolly (2) and smooth.
This plant is often 6 ft. high. July and August are the months when Mullein flowers. It is a herbaceous biennial reproduced by seeds and cultivated in gardens.
The flowers are conspicuous, but contain little honey. The corolla is wheel-shaped, and of the 5 stamens 2 are superior, and the three other anther-stalks are bearded with white hairs. The anthers in the lone stamens are somewhat decurrent. The stigma is simple. Mullein is visited by the honey bee, Bombus, Halictus, Andrena, Polistes, Diptera, Syrphidae, Helophilus, Syritta, Ascia.
The capsule opens by septa, and allows the seeds to be scattered around the plant itself.
This plant is a sand plant and grows on sand soil, rupestral growing on different types of rock soil.
1 This serves as a protection, and excludes creeping insects
The leaves are attacked by a mould, Peronospom sordida. Four beetles, Coccinella 22-punctata, Cionus thapsi, Longitarsus patruelis,
L. tabidus; 3 moths, Mullein, Cucullia verbasci, Ebulea verbascalis,
Nothris verbascella; and a fly, Lonchaea nigra, are found upon it.
Verbascum, Pliny, is the Latin name for it. Thapsus is a place in Africa.
The names given to it are numerous: Aaron's Rod, Adam's Flannel, Ag-leaf, Ag-paper, Begg-ar's Blanket, Beggar's Stalk, Blanket Leaf, Bullock's Lungwort, Sea Cabbage, Candle - wick, Clot, Clown's Lung-wort, Shepherd's Club, Cow's Lungwort, Cuddy's Lugs, Mullein or Velvet Dock, Duffle, Feltwort, Flannel, Our Lord's or Our Lady's Flannel, Fluff-weed, Foxglove, Golden Grain, Golden Rod, Hag-taper, Hare's Beard, Hedge Taper, Hig Taper, Wild Ice-leaf, Jacob's Staff, Jupiter's Staff, Ladies' Foxglove, White Mullein, Mullein Dock, Old Man's Flannel, Peter's Staff, Rag Paper, Shepherd's Staff, Taper, Torches, Virgin Mary's Candle, Woollen. As to the name Torches, Lyte says: "The whole toppe, with his pleasant, yellow floures, sheweth like to a wax-candle, a taper, cunningly wrought"; and Coles says: "The elder age used the stalks dipped in suet to burn, whether at funerals or for private uses". It is called Aaron's Rod from the tall, straight stem, and Adam's Flannel and Blanket Leaf from the texture and appearance of the leaves. Gerarde says as to the name Bullock's Lungwort: "The country people, especially those husbandmen in Kent, doe give their cattell the leaves to drink against the cough of the lungs, being an excellent approved medicine for the same, whereupon they do call it Bullock Lungwort". In N. Somerset they "called" it Lucernaria, "or wick plant, useful for wicks of lamps". "Duffle" is the name given it because of the softness of its leaves, like a textile fabric so called. It is called "Feltwort" from the felty leaves, and also Flannel. Hag-taper is from A.S. hege or haga, a hedge, from the usual place of growth, and taper because it is, or was, used as a torch. Mullein, Mollen, is wolleyn or wullen = woollen.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus, L.)
Witches used it in their potions according to the superstitious. Boiled in milk the leaves have been used as an emollient for coughs. It used to be called Candela from its use as a light. The down on the leaves makes a tinder. It is cultivated in gardens and makes a showy plant.
Essential Specific Characters:226. Verbascum Thapstis, L. - Stem tall, erect, simple, downy, leaves woolly, decurrent, ovate, crenate, flowers light-yellow, in a dense spike, some filaments woolly.