Three mulleins are blooming now. One is at the end. One is in the middle. One is beginning the season.
The first to bloom is the moth mullein. Although I’ve seen yellow ones, most are white with purple hairy stamens. The flowers line a two foot tall spike.
The plant begins as a rosette of leaves and overwinters before putting on its display. I find the rosettes in my garden and leave many of them. Like many wildflowers, they do seed freely and must sometimes be considered weeds.
Last year other rosettes were growing too. These were big hairy leaves. The white hairs give the leaves a woolly appearance.
This year these rosette leaves gained in size. A tall spire began rising from the center up to five feet or more in height. Yellow flowers open randomly on the spire from the packed flower buds. At times more than one spire will grow or the single one will branch to form a candelabra.
Down near the creek and on the roadside above it a big rosette of deeply lobed leaves began growing. Looking I found a half dozen of these that began putting up a tall stem with these lobed leaves hanging off. The stem branched and the leaves lost their lobes and became smaller.
Finally a few flowers are opening. Often these first flowers are singles in the leaf nodes. Now two flowers top each leaf. These are the yellow foxglove mullein. To me the flowers have more of a smashed look to them.
Only the three mulleins are listed in Flora of Missouri as really growing in the state so it is a treat to see all three close to home. Except foxglove mullein is now moved to another plant family.
I look at these plants with their big green leaves and see a regular plant. I don’t dig any up. When the plants are dug up, it turns out they are plant parasites, stealing sugars from the trees around them.
However I will continue to think of them as a third mullein. The plants do produce most of their own food stealing only a little without any real harm to the trees.
When you go to look at the three mulleins, go early in the morning. This is when the flowers are open wide.