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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This is a variable species with attractive flowers and unattractive foliage. There are two basic color forms
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This introduced biennial plant is 2-4' tall and either unbranched or sparingly branched. The central stem is stout, ribbed, and usually glabrous beneath the inflorescence. The basal leaves of 1st-year plants form a low-growing rosette about 8-12" across. During the second year, this species bolts upward with alternate leaves along the flowering stems. They are up to 6" long and 2½" across, becoming smaller as they ascend the stems. The leaves of these 2nd-year plants are broadly lanceolate with margins that are coarsely crenate or dentate. Sometimes the margins are slightly undulate and irregular. The lower leaves strongly clasp the stems, while the upper leaves near the inflorescence are more likely to be sessile. The upper surface of each leaf is wrinkled along the veins and hairless. The central stem and upper side stems (if any) terminate in tall spike-like racemes of flowers about ½–2' in length. The stalks of these racemes are glandular hairy. Each flower spans up to 1" across, consisting of 5 spreading petals, 5 stamens, a hairy green calyx with 5 pointed lobes, and a single pistil with a green stigma. The petals are usually white or pale yellow, and they often have purplish pink or greenish brown tints on the surface facing the calyx. The center of the flower has fine purple hairs around the stamens and the base of the petals are often some shade of purple or pink. The pedicel of each flower is about ½" long, and there is a tapering green bract of about the same length at its base. The blooming period usually occurs during the summer, and lasts about 1-2 months. Each flower is replaced by a round capsule containing numerous seeds. The root system consists of a stout taproot. This plant spreads by reseeding itself.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Moth Mullein is a common plant that occurs in most counties of Illinois. However, it is less common or absent in NW Illinois (see Distribution Map). This species originated from Eurasia. Habitats include pastures, abandoned fields, vacant lots, irregularly mowed lawns, areas along roadsides and railroads, and gravel bars along rivers. It prefers highly disturbed areas and is not invasive of natural areas to any significant degree.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Annuals or biennials. Stems unbranched, sparsely glandular hairy above. Basal leaves subsessile or basally attenuate as if petiolate; leaf blade oblong, to 10 X 4 cm, margin obtusely serrate to basally pinnately lobed. Stem leaves gradually decreasing in size upward and becoming bracteal; leaf blade oblong-lanceolate, margin irregularly and shallowly toothed. Raceme somewhat branched, to 50 cm. Rachises, pedicels, and calyces glandular pilose. Flowers solitary at each node. Pedicel 5-10 mm. Calyx 5-6 mm; lobes oblong-lanceolate. Corolla yellow; upper lobes 3, woolly at base. Stamens 5; filaments purple woolly; anthers of anterior 2 stamens decurrent at base. Capsule ovoid, 7-8 mm, longer than persistent calyx, apically sparsely glandular pilose, apex short beaked. Fl. May-Jun, fr. Jul-Aug.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Moth Mullein is a common plant that occurs in most counties of Illinois. However, it is less common or absent in NW Illinois (see Distribution Map). This species originated from Eurasia. Habitats include pastures, abandoned fields, vacant lots, irregularly mowed lawns, areas along roadsides and railroads, and gravel bars along rivers. It prefers highly disturbed areas and is not invasive of natural areas to any significant degree.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat & Distribution

Grassland along rivers, trailsides; low elevations. N Xinjiang [Russia; Europe].
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The pollen of the flowers is collected by bumblebees and Halictid bees. Syrphid flies feed on the pollen, but they are probably not effective at pollination. Little information appears to be available about this species' relationships to birds and mammals. Photographic Location
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / pathogen
sporangium of Peronospora verbasci infects and damages pale yellow shoot of Verbascum blattaria

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Verbascum blattaria

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Moth Mullein is an adaptable plant that usually grows in full sunlight, moist to dry conditions, and rather poor soil that contains gravel or clay. In dry poor soil, this plant can be rather small, while at sites with fertile soil and more moisture it can become rather large.
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Wikipedia

Verbascum blattaria

Verbascum blattaria, or moth mullein, is a flowering biennial weed belonging to the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family. An invasive species native to Eurasia and North Africa, it has naturalized in the United States and most of Canada since its introduction.[1] It has been declared a noxious weed by the state of Colorado.[2]

Alternative Names[edit]

Verbascum blattaria is more commonly referred to as the “moth mullein”. It is so named because of the resemblance of its flowers' stamen to that of a moth’s antennae.[3] This is not to be confused with the more popular and widely known “common mullein” (Verbascum thapsus), a close relative of V. blattari.[4]

Description[edit]

Flower of Verbascum blattaria
Verbascum blattaria

The moth mullein is a biennial plant. In its first year of growth, the leaves of the mullein develop as a basal rosette. During this first year, the stem of the plant remains extremely short. The leaves of the rosette are oblanceolate with deeply toothed edges and are attached to the stem by short petioles. The rosette can grow to a diameter of sixteen inches during this first year, with each individual leaf reaching a length of up to eight inches. The mullein forms a fibrous root system with a deep taproot.[5]

In the second year of growth, the stem of the mullein grows slender and erect, and can reach a height of 2 to 5 feet. This length of stem is commonly referred to as the flowering stem. It usually grows unbranched, and leaves grow alternatively directly off the stem.[6] The leaves located on the flowering stem are similar to the leaves of the rosette: however they tend to be smaller and elliptic-shaped with shallow-toothed edges and have sharply pointed tips. Theses leaves can reach a length of five inches. Both the leaves of the rosette and the leaves of the flowering stem are dark green in color and glabrous (hairless).[7]

The flowers of the moth mullein are produced during the second year of growth, and are found in loose clusters near the top of the flowering stem. Each flower is attached individually to the flowering stem by a pedicel. Each pedicel typically reaches a length of less than one inch. The flowers of the mullein consist of five petals and five anther-bearing stamens, and each flower can reach a diameter of one inch. The flowers can be either yellow or white and typically have a slight purple tinge. The stamens of the flower are orange in color and are covered in purple hairs, reminiscent to a moth’s antennae.[5] The flowers of the mullein bloom between June and October of the second year.[3]

The moth mullein grows a small, simple fruit that is spherical in shape and has a diameter of less than a half-inch. Each fruit is dark brown in color and contains numerous dark brown seeds. The fruit capsule splits in two and falls to the ground when mature.[8] Each plant produces over 1,000 fruit capsules. The fruit of the mullein develops, matures, and falls from the plant all in the second year of growth. In certain regions of the world, finches have been known to consume and distribute the seeds.[5]

Distribution[edit]

A native of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, the moth mullein has naturalized in most of North America since its introduction. It was first recorded in Pennsylvania in 1818, and was recorded in Michigan in 1840.[9] It has since been found in almost every one of the continental United States, as well as in southern Canada and even Hawaii.[2] In the United States, it’s found most abundantly along the east coast.[9]

Distribution of V. blattaria in the US and Canada

Though having a wide range of habitats, the mullein is typically found in open fields like pastures and meadows.[5] It can also found in open woods. The moth mullein prefers rich soils and is tolerant of dry, sandy, and even gravelly soils.[5]

Uses and Viability[edit]

Even in folk medicine, V. blattaria has not been attributed to a wide range of uses.[9] However, a study conducted in 1974 reported that when a number of Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae were exposed to a methanol extract of moth mullein, at least 53% of the larvae were killed.[9] V. blattaria has also long been known to be an effective cockroach repellent, and the name blattaria is actually derived from the Latin word for cockroach, “blatta”.[5]

In a famous study constituting the longest known ongoing scientific experiment, Dr. William James Beal, then a professor of botany at Michigan Agriculture College, selected seeds of 21 different plant species (including Verbascum blattaria) and placed seeds of each in twenty separate bottles filled with sand.[10] The bottles, left uncorked, were buried mouth down (so as not to allow moisture to reach the seeds) in a sandy knoll in 1879.[10] The purpose of this experiment was to determine how long the seeds could be buried dormant in the soil, and yet germinate in the future when planted.[10] In the year 2000, one of these bottles was dug up, and 23 seeds of V. blattaria were planted in favorable conditions, yielding a 50% germination rate.[10] This represents the longest known length of time in which seeds of any plant were able to germinate after such a long period of dormancy (120 years).[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ GRIN Taxonomy for Plants http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?102317
  2. ^ a b United States Department of Agriculture http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VEBL
  3. ^ a b Connecticut Botanical Society http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/verbascumblat.html
  4. ^ Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/vesbl.htm]
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/singlerecord.asp?id=760]
  6. ^ Beidleman, L.H. and Kozloff, E.N. 2003. Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  7. ^ Hickman, J.C. 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  8. ^ Lersten, N.R. and Curtis, J.D. 1997. Anatomy and Distribution of Foliar Idioblasts in Scrophularia and Verbascum. American Journal of Botany 84(12): 1638-1645.
  9. ^ a b c d Michigan State University W.J. Beal Botanical Garden http://www.cpa.msu.edu/beal/plantofweek/plants/verbascum_blattaria_20080714.pdf]
  10. ^ a b c d e Telewski, F.W. and Zeevaart, A.D. 2002. The 120-Year Period for Dr. Beal's Seed Viability Experiment. American Journal of Botany 89(8): 1285-1288.
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