Tag Archives: moth mullein

Three Mulleins Blooming

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.

moth mullein, one of three mulleins

Moth mullein flowers are an easy inch across. Several open on the spire sometimes ringing it with their white petals offsetting that dark purple tipped with orange in the center. These seed freely putting out rosettes of crinkly leaves over late summer into fall then putting up flower spikes in late spring the next year. They bloom over a month or more and would make lovely garden flowers.

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.

mullein flower spire

Mullein grows tall, sometimes topping six feet. Each branch can form its own column making the plant into a candelabra.

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.

mullein one of three mulleins

Mullein flowers are a rich yellow with yellow stamens topped with orange anthers.

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.

foxglove mullein was one of three mulleins

Foxglove mullein was listed with the other two. It does have similarities in the flower but it grows differently putting up a tall stem with many branches. Pairs of flowers appear above the numerous leaves.

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.