Flowers - Yellow, or frequently white, 5-parted, about 1 in. broad, marked with brown; borne on spreading pedicles in a long, loose raceme; all the filaments with violet hairs; 1 protruding pistil. Stem: Erect, slender, simple, about 2ft. high, sometimes less, or much taller. Leaves: Seldom present at flowering time; oblong to ovate, toothed, mostly sessile, smooth.

Moth Mullen. (Verbascum blattaria)

Moth Mullen. (Verbascum blattaria)

Preferred Habitat - Dry, open wasteland; roadsides, fields.

Flowering Season - June - November.

Distribution - Naturalized from Europe and Asia, more or less common throughout the United States and Canada.

Quite different from its heavy and sluggish looking sister is this sprightly, slender, fragile-flowered mullein. "Said to repel the cockroach (Blatta), hence the name Blattaria; frequented by moths, hence moth mullein." (Britton and Brown's "Flora.") Are the latter frequent visitors? Surely there is nothing here to a moth's liking. New England women used to pack this plant among woollen garments in summer to keep out the tiny clothes-moths. The flower, whose two long stamens and pistil protrude as from the great mullein's blossom, and whose filaments are tufted with violet wool footholds - unnecessary provisions for moths, which rarely alight on any flower, but suck with their wings in motion - are cross-fertilized by pollen-collecting bees and flies as described in the account of the great mullein.

"Of beautiful weeds quite a long list might be made without including any of the so-called wild flowers," says John Burroughs. " A favorite of mine is the little moth mullein that blooms along the highway, and about the fields, and maybe upon the edge of the lawn." Even in winter, when the slender stem, set with round brown seed-vessels, rises above the snow, the plant is pleasing to the human eye, as it is to that of hungry birds.