Aaron’s Rod, Adam’s Flannel, Common Mullein, Great Mullein, Wooly Mullein, Velvet Dock, Flannel Leaf, Witch’s Taper, Candlestick, ETC.
(Verbascum thapsus subsp. thapsus)
Synonyms of Verbascum thapsus (2) (Updated on 1-15-23 from Plants of the World Online): Verbascum simplex subsp. valentinum (Burnat & Barbey) Malag. (1969), Verbascum thapsus var. bracteatum (C.Agardh) Hartm. (1832)
Synonyms of Verbascum thapsus subsp. thapsus (42)(Updated on 1-15-23 from POWO): Leiosandra cuspidata Raf. (1838), Thapsus linnaei (Opiz) Opiz (1852), Thapsus schraderi (G.Mey.) Opiz (1852), Verbascum × adulterinum subsp. seminigrum (Fr.) P.Fourn. (1928)(nom. superfl.), Verbascum alatum Lam. (1779), Verbascum angustius Schrank (1809), Verbascum bicolle Roem. & Schult. (1819)(nom. illeg.)Verbascum bracteatum J.Kickx f. ex Dumort. (1827)(nom. illeg.), Verbascum canescens Jord. ex Boreau (1857), Verbascum decurrens Stokes (1812), Verbascum elongatum Willd. (1809)(nom. illeg.), Verbascum indicum Wall. (1824), Verbascum intermedium Léman ex Roem. & Schult. (1819)(not validly publ.), Verbascum kickxianum Dumort. (1827), Verbascum lanatum Gilib. (1782)(opus utique oppr.), Verbascum linnaei Opiz (1841), Verbascum majus Bubani (1897), Verbascum mas Garsault (1764)(opus utique rej.), Verbascum neglectum Guss. (1832), Verbascum officinarum Crantz (1766), Verbascum pallidum Nees (1819), Verbascum plantagineum Moris (1827), Verbascum salisburgense Fritsch (1888), Verbascum schraderi G.Mey. (1836), Verbascum seminigrum Fr. (1819), Verbascum spectabile Salisb. (1796), Verbascum subalpinum Schur (1866), Verbascum tapsus Neck. (1768)(orth. var.), Verbascum thapsum St.-Lag. (1880)(orth. var.), Verbascum thapsus var. albiflora S.K.Agarwal (2017)(contrary to Art. 40.6. (ICN, 2012)), Verbascum thapsus var. australe Franch. (1868), Verbascum thapsus var. boreale Franch. (1868), Verbascum thapsus f. candicans House (1924), Verbascum thapsus var. cuspidatum Scheutz (1885), Verbascum thapsus var. elongatum Trevir. (1818), Verbascum thapsus var. glabrum St.-Lag. (1889), Verbascum thapsus var. gymnostemon Rouy (1909)(nom. illeg.), Verbascum thapsus var. intermedium Franch. (1868), Verbascum thapsus subsp. langei Rivas Mart. (2002)(without type) Verbascum thapsus subsp. neglectum (Guss.) Arcang. (1882), Verbascum thapsus var. pseudothapsiforme (Rapin) Rouy (1909), Verbascum thapsus var. sylvaticum Roth (1827)
Verbascum thapsus L. is the accepted scientific name for this species of Verbascum. The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
As of 1-15-23 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists 455 species in the Verbascum genus. It is a member of the plant family Scrophulariaceae with 60 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
The above distribution map for Verbascum thapsus is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple is where it has been introduced. The map on the USDA Plants Database for the United States and Canada is the same.
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A BETTER POSITIVE ID.
I am sure most people who have been out and about just about anywhere have run across Verbascum thapsus. There are several that always grow along the fence in the front pasture here on the farm and usually a few in the ditch. They are a common sight along back roads and highways as well. I remember their large wooly leaves and tall spikes of flowers from way back as a kid when my grandparents lived on this farm. They go by several common names including Aaron’s Rod, Adam’s Flannel, Common Mullein, Great Mullein, Wooly Mullein, Velvet Dock, Flannel Leaf, Witch’s Taper, Candlestick, and several others. I use the common name Wooly Mullein because that was the name I found when I first made a proper ID many years ago.
Verbascum thapsus is a Eurasian native that has been introduced to North America and several other countries. It is found throughout Missouri and all across North America. It is easily identified from its large fuzzy leaves and tall flower spikes.
The species prefers full sun although I have found them in part shade. They can grow in just about any soil type either in damp or dry conditions. Their deep taproots allow them to be very drought-tolerant. They are a very adaptable species being found in a wide range of habitats.
Verbascum thapsus stems grow from a deep taproot. There is usually only one stem, but they can branch out. The stems are very wooly with branched stellate (star-shaped), non-glandular hairs. The stems are winged from decurrent leaf tissue.
The basal leaves are quite woolly, can grow to 12” or longer and 4” across, and become smaller as they go up the stem. The margins are normally smooth but can have short blunt teeth or be scalloped and wavy. The leaves are said to be oblong-oblanceolate to oblanceolate and may or may not have short petioles. The leaves taper gradually to a winged base that extends down the stem (decurrent).
The above photo and the next two were taken of a Verbascum thapsus along a road close to a good friend’s home in Benton County on July 11 in 2020.
The flowers are approximately 3/4” across and consist of a yellow 5-lobed corolla that is subtended by a green calyx. The calyx has 5 lobes that are lanceolate to triangular-lanceolate in shape. Both the calyx and corolla are fuzzy.
Stems terminate with a long, densely packed flower spike that grows to at least 2’ in length.
The above photo and the next 3 were taken in the south hayfield on June 16 in 2021. The leaves grow in a spiral pattern.
There are five stamens that alternate with the corolla lobes. The upper three stamens have filaments and anthers that are shorter than those of the lower two. The filaments of the upper three stamens are densely bearded with yellow hairs, while those of the lower two are glabrous (no hairs) or sparsely pubescent (hairy), orange in color, and fused to the filaments. The style is green, the stigma capitate (with a head), the ovary 2 locular (2-celled). The pistol is in there somewhere…
The above photo shows a first-year rosette. Plants are biennial, so they don’t flower until their second year.
The above photo and next three were taken along a back road south of town in Henry County on July 21 in 2021.
The flowers are replaced by 2 celled seed capsules that contain numerous tiny seeds, over 100 per capsule.
The above photo shows how large the basal leaves get.
The above photo was taken along the Rock Island Spur of the Katy Trail that runs next to the farm on July 17 in 2022. Likely the multiple stems are a result of the plant being mowed off.
The most important pollinators of Verbascum thapsus are bumblebees that visit the flowers for nectar and pollen. Carder Bees (Anthidium ssp.), which I have never heard of, use the hairs from the leaves as a waterproof lining for their nests. Birds aren’t interested in their seeds because they are to small and no animals eat their leaves.
Information online says the seeds and foliage “may” contain toxic compounds… However, there is a lot of information online about using the flower spikes as torches, the leaves as candle wicks, and how various other parts have been used in herbal medicine.
Hopefully, I will take more photos in 2023. I need close-up photos that will go along with the descriptions. Then, I will rearrange the photos accordingly.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the family farm and in other areas. The farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 250 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at email@example.com. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF MISSOURI (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF NORTH AMERICA (GENUS/SPECIES)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
MSU-MIDWEST WEEDS AND WILDFLOWERS
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-WEED ID GUIDE
KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
PFAF(PLANTS FOR A FUTURE)
FRIENDS OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
MARYLAND BIODIVERSITY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
NATIVE PLANTS OF THE CAROLINAS & GEORGIA
OAK HILL HOMESTEAD
INVASIVE PLANT ATLAS
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂