Monday, May 12, 2008


These photos were taken on the edge of the gravel road in the Beaverdam Waterfowl Impoundment. Moomin Light, who likes to give her own names to wildflowers ("Sun buttons" for slender leaved sneeze weed, "Face Flowers" for spotted wintergreen, etc.) calls these "Fairy Blankets." The leaves feel soft and fleecy, like the leaves of lambs ears (stachys).

It the winter the plant is a rosette, as much as a foot across, like the large one here, with the older, larger leaves curled up to protect the tender, cabbage like center. In the early summer a solitary stalk will shoot up three to six feet, and yellow flowers, reminiscent of hollyhocks, will bloom a few at a time gradually working their way down the stalk. Here are links to a few photos of mullein in bloom. In Europe domesticated varieties have been bred for larger and more colorful flowers (verbascum), but in America we mostly ignore them. Preferring poor soils and little competition, mullein is not a pest for agriculture or gardener - another reason we don't pay it much attention.

Mullein is said to have arrived in the new world in the dirt and stones that were shoveled into the bottom of wooden ships as ballast. From their foothold on the east coast it was not long before the wind and humans unknowingly carried their seeds to every state in America. Like dandelions (another transplant from the old world), they are now everywhere.

This was written back in the winter - but I'm only getting around to posting it now...

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