Monday, March 3, 2014

Moth Mullein (Verbascum Blattaria)

Written by Diane Beauton

During our hike on one of the Corriganville Park nature trails, at the foot of Santa Susana pass in Simi Valley, Ca., we spotted what at first appeared to be a bold and vivid yellow plant resembling the stalwart hollyhock.

Moth Mullein is a biennial herb and one of 250 species in the figwort (scrofularia or scrofula) family. It derives it's name 'moth' from it's moth-like petals, and is also known as the 'velvet plant' for it's soft silky appearance.

The flowering stalk (peduncle) gives birth to white, soft pink and vibrant yellow clusters of rosette blooms with a tinge of purple in it's center. The seed of this species can remain 120 years in sandy soil.

Moth mullein is related to the common mullein and great mullein. Although Moth mullein is categorized as an herb it is considered a weed of pastures, hay fields, and roadsides, in several sources. This is one 'weed' that would adorn any garden.

The mullein plant is not a naturalized plant but is native to Europe and spread to the Americas during the early 1800’s where it has thrived in nearly every state.

Though not often recognized, moth mullein is said to have medicinal properties useful as a lymphatic herb. However, unlike the Verbascum thapsus variety which is known for it's respiratory virtues, the medicinal potential of Verbascum blattaria is not well-known, so buyer beware! In fact, it is speculated that the medicinal potential of Verbascum blattaria may have sedative and narcotic properties like Verbascum thapsus but much stronger. Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is more widely accepted and used as an herbal remedy.