Wooly Mullein is a biennial plant in the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). It grows a large rosette of large and wooly leaves in its first year, and a stem which can be up to 6’ tall the second year. Stem leaves are overlapping, long and narrow, also wooly, on short petioles near the base, and clasping above, and decreasing in size the higher on the stalk you go. Inflorescence is a 4-20” spike of 5 petaled yellow flowers , which bloom successively. The entire plant, except flowers, is covered in soft, branches hairs. This plant is native to Eurasia, but has naturalized throughout our region in disturbed ground.
Despite many herbalists claims for the medicinal value of various parts of this plant, there are no pharmaceutical products made from Wooly Mullein. But because of its length, bulk, and absorbency they did make very effective torches by dipping the dried stems in wax or tallow. And it’s said to make an acceptable outdoor toilet paper, although I can’t speak to that usage myself.
The nectar is very attractive to bumblebees (Bombus spp), Flower Flies (Syrphidae), and Sweat Bees (Halictidae), and Carder Bees (Anthidium spp) use the hairs to waterproof their winter nests. It is a larval host for the Noctuid moths Agrochola purpurea, Fishia yosemitae, and Abagrotis variata. The stink bugs Neottiglossa undata feed on this plant. And these Largus cinctus I found crawling its surface must be finding something interesting here.
Size- Up to 6’ tall
Habitat- Disturbed ground
Range- Region wide
Blooms- All summer