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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

10 January, 2017

Great Mullein: reaching for the sky

Growing sometimes to two metres tall the great mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is truly deserving of the name. Even smaller specimens are well over a one and a half metres tall.
Great mullein is not only the tallest of the verbascum family but also the most common growing on waste ground and roadsides where there is limited competition from other plants. It presents as a tall spike with large yellow flowers appearing up the stout stem a few at a time with the older ones in seed as the new flowers appear. It starts to flower in June and continues through until August. It has large wide leaves that finish in a point that are covered in white, downy hairs. I really do not think you can confuse this plant with any other. Quite often the leaves will have holes in them where they have been attacked by moth caterpillars and some species of bees, especially the wool carder bee. 
Once considered a cure for coughs and throat infections it has also been used to treat skin conditions. In some places it is used as a source of dyes for cloth. It is also grown in gardens as an ornamental flower.
Great Mullein: reaching for the sky