Verbascum

Verbascum
Verbascum thapus (Common Mullein, noxious!)

by Cherie Luke
The genus Verbascum has some good garden plants and one noxious weed that should never be planted.  Verbascum thapus, also known as common mullein, is a member of the Scrophulariaceae, figwort family. Currently Verbascum thapus is on the “C” list of Noxious Weeds of Colorado.  This means it is already widespread throughout the state, and should at least be suppressed when possible. It is a biennial that reproduces by seed that can live up to 80 years. It is native to Asia but it is thought that it got here by way of Europe.


It has long furry leaves and a tall yellow flower stalk. It is well known among herbalists. Mullein tea is a treatment for respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and chest colds. Because it is a noxious weed, one can harvest unlimited quantities, but be sure that they have not been sprayed. The roots and seeds of this plant are toxic and should never be used for any reason.

Verbascum bombyciferum ‘Polarsommer’
Because of Verbascum’s  stately presence many people admire this plant. There  are about 300 species of Verbascum and some are considered “well behaved” in the home garden. There are some growing at Denver Botanic Gardens such as Verbascum bombyciferum ‘Polarsommer’, Arctic Summer Mullein.
Verbascum olympicum, Olympic Mullein
There was a Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’ that I found for sale at the May, Denver Botanic Gardens plant sale this year in the “Grown at the Garden” section that is describes as being pastel shades of lavender, buff, cream, and rose. The plant tag says full sun, dry to medium well drained soil, drought tolerant, zone 5-8, so I'm giving it a try. 
Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’ 
With so many beautiful and stately Verbascum’s available, there may be one that is just right for your own garden – except for the noxious weed!

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