Flannel Leaf Mullein

Living down in a creek valley, one direction to go is up and a nearby road does just that. The climb is stiff as the slope is steep and often in the sun. This is a perfect place for flannel leaf mullein to grow.

flannel leaf mullein plant
This mullein plant is near a ditch along the road going down a hill. it evidently has gotten just the right amount of water as the flower stalk was six feet tall when it began blooming. The bottom leaves are easily a foot long.

Usually this plant is referred to only as mullein as it is unique. However flannel leaf mullein is very apt.

The plant is a biennial. The first year it is little more than a rosette of fuzzy triangular leaves. These rosettes grow in any sunny place like lawns, along roads, the edges of fields.

group of flannel leaf mullein
Mullein reproduces primarily by seed. The seed obviously doesn’t travel very far many times as this group, only partially shown, had three or four dozen individuals in it. These were higher up on the road cut and competing with each other so they weren’t big plants, mostly four to five feet tall.

The leaves are light green. Turning them a misty green is the layer of soft hairs. Stroking one explains the name flannel leaf mullein.

Making the stiff climb up the road I find a row of mullein lines the road where the electric line right of way emerges. The opposite side of the road has electric lines on top of the ridge so the entire area is cut short. A patch of mullein has moved in along the road cut and top edge of the ridge.

soft hairs make flannel leaf mullein soft
Soft hairs cover upper and lower leaf surfaces as well as the winged stems. These are short, maybe an eighth of an inch long, but give the plant the feel of flannel.

This is the second year for many of these plants. They have put out great, long, wide, flannel soft leaves in rosettes. A thick flower stalk rises from the center up to six feet.

Mullein is a night bloomer seeking moth pollinators. The brilliant yellow flowers wilt as soon as the sun hits them.

Wanting to see the open flowers I made the climb mid morning after finishing chores. A few stalks were still in the shade with their flowers open.

mullein flowers
Many plants with flower stalks bloom from the base to the top. Mullein flowers open more randomly, but move up the stalk. The buds are covered with hairs.

Photographing these flowers presented another challenge. The flowers were a foot over my head. The thick stalk is stiff, but a little flexible. Pulling one over brought the flowers within reach.

The petals are smooth and flare. Inside some of the anthers are wreathed with hairs.

Releasing the flower stalk gradually I enjoyed the soft feel of the flannel leaf mullein and turned to walk slowly and carefully down the loose gravel on the steep road leading home.

More Ozark wildflowers are found in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.