Verbascum blattaria L.

Moth Mullein

Verbascum blattaria plant

Family - Scrophulariaceae

Stems - To +1m tall, glabrous below, glandular pubescent in inflorescence, carinate, from large taproot, herbaceous, branching above or simple, erect.

Verbascum blattaria stem

Leaves - Basal leaves in rosette, pinnately lobed, to +17cm long, +/-5cm broad, oblanceolate, sessile, glabrous or with very sparse pubescence below on midrib, often rugose above. Lobes serrate to crenate-serrate or crisped. Cauline leaves alternate, sessile, clasping, biserrate, lanceolate, reduced above, glabrous or with sparse hairs on midrib below. Leaves in inflorescence reduced to bracts.

Verbascum blattaria leavesBasal leaves.

Verbascum blattaria leavesCauline leaves.

Inflorescence - Terminal spikiform indeterminate raceme to +40cm tall, elongating in fruit. Flowers subtended by foliaceous bracts. Bracts and axis densely glandular pubescent. Pedicels to +1cm long in flower, longer in fruit, 1.1mm in diameter, dense glandular pubescent.

Verbascum blattaria inflorescencePortion of inflorescence.

Flowers - Corolla zygomorphic, 5-lobed, yellow, to -4cm broad. Lobes rounded, glabrous. Stamens 5, filaments to 9mm long, densely villous, the pubescence wine in color. Anthers 3mm broad, bright orange. Style filiform, glabrous, 1cm long, purple. Ovary superior, densely glandular, subglobose, 2-locular. Placentation axile. Calyx 5-lobed, densely glandular pubescent. Tube to -1mm long. Lobes to 8mm long, -3mm broad, recurved, linear. Fruit a globose capsule to 8mm in diameter, many seeded, glandular pubescent.

Verbascum blattaria calyxCalyx.

Verbascum blattaria flowerFlower.

Verbascum blattaria flower2White form.

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Pastures, rocky open ground, rocky streambanks, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This is an interesting and beautiful plant, and a splendid example of a nonagressive and well-behaved introduced species. The upper portion of the stems are densely glandular pubescent and the flowers are brilliant and intricately detailed. The densely pubescent filaments contrast with the showy corolla and make for a striking display. I always wonder why people go to garden centers to buy plants when some of the best plants are growing on the side of the road. This plant is easy to grow from seed and produces huge quantities of it. The globose fruits contain many tiny seeds each.

This plant is commonly encountered in both yellow-flowered and white-flowered forms. The white form has been called f. albiflora (G. Don) House, or f. erubescens Brug. Both forms are common in Missouri except possibly for in the northwest corner of the state where the plant seems to be less common or absent. In the continental U.S. the plant is most common in the Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest. It tolerates disturbance and is often found along roadsides or growing through cracks in abandoned roadways.

Photographs taken off Hwy 72, Reynolds County, MO., 5-23-03, and off I-85 near Atlanta, GA., 3-20-05.


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