Great Mullein and the Mullein Moth

Great Mullien, Verbascum thapsusGreat MulleinGreat Mullein also known as Common Mullein is a hairy , tall spike of a flower. It spends it’s first year as a basal rosette of leaves and in it’s second year sends up a single stem of flowers that can reach six foot or more in the right conditions.

The stamens are an important identification feature of this species. It has five stamens of two different types. The top three stamens are covered in fine yellow or white hair and have small anthers while the bottom two stamens have no hair and larger anthers. It is a peculiar arrangement that helps with the ID.

Great Mullein

Great Mullein

Great Mullein

Great Mullein

Great MulleinThe plant has been used by men in a variety of different ways. Most importantly it has the power to ward of evil spirits. It has been used as a medicine for skin, throat and breathing problems. The crushed seeds have been used by different cultures to make a poison that paralyses fish. The flowers have been used to make dyes, the dried stems dipped into suet made torches or were used as hand drills to start a fire and the large, downy leaves were used to keep us warm.

Great MulleinSadly our leaves are not going to be much use for keeping us warm.

Great MulleinThey have been attacked by the big bright caterpillars of the Mullein Moth.

Mullein Moth Larvae

Mullein Moth LarvaeA couple of weeks ago there were dozens of these caterpillars just outside of my front door.

You might think, “well Col, why didn’t you catch some and watch them pupating?” There is a very good reason for that.

They go through a normal egg and caterpillar stage which lasts a few weeks and the caterpillars are usually around in June. They pupate underground and this can take quite a long time.

They have been observed in captivity pupating for five years before emerging as very well camouflaged moths that look a bit like a dead leaf.

I don’t know who observed this. I would have chucked them out after a couple of years (months) thinking this must be a dud. 🙂

Mullein Moth Larvae

Mullein Moth Larvae

Mullein Moth LarvaeThat is my post about Great Mullein and The Mullein Moth Larvae. Beautiful animals on beautiful flowers.

Mullein Moth Larvae

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6 thoughts on “Great Mullein and the Mullein Moth”

  1. Lovely pictures – and I have had another look at the picture I posted yesterday of ‘verbascum’ following your very helpful description and it is a Great Mullien! Sadly I don’t have Mullein Moth Caterpillars on mine – just a very fine beetle which I have photographed and will include in my next post 🙂

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  2. I cracked up with “… would have chucked them out after a couple of years (months) thinking this must be a dud. :)” Brilliant.

    Mullein is just an amazing plant. So useful (my go-to for unprepared lady stops when hiking), and I love the flowers when they are all filled in on the ‘candle’.

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  3. 🙂 🙂 Thank you SE. Our plants are not looking that smart at the moment, thanks to the caterpillars but they didn’t get them all and we may still get a bit of a show from them.
    Colin

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