Welsh, Pannog. - French, Bouillon blanc, Molene. - German, Wollkraut, Wollblume, Himmelbrand, Konigskerze, Oster-kerze. - Dutch, Wollekruid. - Swedish, Kongsljus. - Danish, Kongelys. - Russian, Zaarsku-skipetr. - Italian, Tassobar-basao. - Spanish, Gordolobo. - Portuguese, Verbasco branco.
Solanece. Scrophularinece. Verbasceae.
LARGE FLOWERED MULLEIN. Verbascum virgatum.
The botanical name of this stately and magnificent genus of plants is a corruption of the word barbas-cum, or bearded, and alludes to the dense and wool-like hairs with which the leaves of many of the species are clothed:- a peculiarity also referred to in the French boullon blanc, which may signify a white froth or foam. A somewhat similar mean-ing is expressed in the names by which the plant is known throughout the greater part of Europe.
Its downy covering, which is still collected for tinder, was formerly employed for making the wicks of tapers, on which account the plant is known in some parts of England as "candle-wick plant." These tapers, probably on account of the trouble and labour of collecting sufficient material for the wicks, were considered as peculiarly appropriate to the service of the Church, and to this use botanical works generally attribute the origin of the names torch-blade, or torch-mullein, and even the German high-taper (osterkerze), heaven's brand (himmel-brand), and king's-taper (konigskerze), which is similar to the Swedish and Danish kongsljus, and kongelys; but it rather appears that they refer, poetically, to the appearance of the plant itself as it stands, pointing up to heaven, with its long and golden spike of thickly set blossoms, like a floral taper. In this view of the question I think I shall be joined by any person who has observed the com-mon mullein (V. Thdpsus), not in the mere dwarfed state in which it usually grows in hedge-rows, or by roadsides, but when it stands on some lone and bleak common, or moor, attaining, in reality, to a height of from six to ten feet, and appearing still higher from its being the only lofty or aspiring thing amongst the dwarf grasses, the stunted furze, and the low heather.
And this is, I think, fur-ther confirmed by the names it bears on the Tar-tarean steppes - where it becomes quite a marked feature of the scene - of steppe-taper, or steppe-light; and even by the very appropriate and pretty Spanish appellation of Gordolobo, or great constel-lation.
The Verbascum was formerly held in high repute in diseases of the lungs, and it still holds its place, I believe, in some "Pharmacopoeias" as a remedy, or a palliative, in several diseases, being mucilaginous, emollient, and sedative. It is now seldom used in medicine; though the Kentish, like the Nor-wegian, farmers consider its decoction a sovereign remedy for coughs, and winter leanness, of cows. Gerarde tells us, that "there be some who think that this herb being but carryed aboute one, dothe help the fallinge sickness; especially the leaves of that plant which hath not as yet born flowers, and gathirid when the sun is in Virgo, and the moon in Aries," prudently adding, however, - "which thing, notwithstanding, is vaine and superstitious:"though "Apuleius reporteth a tale of Ulysses, Mercury, and the Inchantresse Circe, and their vse of these herbes in their incantations and witchcrafts." Pliny and Dioscorides allude to the use of Verbascum leaves for preserving figs, which are said never to decay if folded in them. It is one of the many herbs said to poison, or rather to stupefy fish. And, according to Alexander Trallianus, its ashes, made into a soap, will restore hair, which has become grey, to its original colour.
The seeds, which yield a fine purple dye, are said by Pursh to preserve their vegetative powers for very lengthened periods, and thus to spring up, with an air of great mystery, in ground which has been newly broken, or burnt.
Most persons are familiar with our common woolly, or great mullein (V. Thapsus), which is conspicuous for its blanket-like leaves; but the remaining British species are somewhat more rare. These are the beautiful slender mullein (V. virgatum), with purple and tufted anthers, which is represented in the engraving; the moth mullein (V. Blattdria), so called from its supposed powers of repelling all moths, cockroaches, etc.; the black-rooted V. nigrum; of which Gerarde says, that "with hys pleasaunt yellow flouris, he" is good for inflammations of the eyes, and causes the hair "to waxe yellow, being also good for burns and scalds;" the white-flowered V. Lychnitis; and the handsome, panicled hoary mullein (V. pulverulentum); the whole of which, with the exception named, have yellow flowers.