Great Mullien, Verbascum thapsus. Great 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.
The 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.
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. 🙂