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Woolly Mullein

"A weed is simply a plant that you don't know what to do with."
Author Unknown

We have a patch of woolly mullein growing in a far corner of the hayfield. I love that so many herbs grow wild here on our land. Even though they're not growing close at hand in my yard, I know where they are and that they are available if I need them.

Woolly mullein (or "wooly" - it's spelled both ways) is also known as common mullein, great mullein, flannel mullein, velvet dock, flannel leaf, witch's taper, candlestick and other names. It grows in "disturbed places" such as roadsides, ditches, fields and abandoned areas. There is a huge patch in a cattle pasture down the road from us where dozer work was done a few years ago.

Mullein is a biennial, taking two years to complete its growing cycle. The large, fuzzy, sage-green leaves grow low to the ground the first year and are quite unmistakeable; the second year the plant sends up a tall flowering spike that can reach six feet or more in height. Found throughout the United States in zones 3-9, it prefers partial sun and dry soil, and will continue to grow and thrive through drought years.

The plants are hard to transplant due to the very long taproot, but you can find usually find seedlings near the brown stalks of last year's plants. They are worth growing in your garden for the texture of the leaves and the striking flower stalks. The flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. Wouldn't your child or grandchild enjoy stroking the soft fuzzy leaves? I'm going to look for seedlings to transplant to the yard before our granddaughter comes to visit this summer. You can also gather and plant the tiny seeds in the fall.

Mullein is also a very useful herb. Teas and ointments made from its leaves are used to treat respiratory problems, lung diseases, burns, rashes and more. The tiny hairs that make the leaves soft and fuzzy can be irritating so any teas must be strained and filtered carefully to remove the hairs. Leaves should be harvested during the first year of growth, according to the information I've read.

The tiny yellow flowers provide a soothing and cleansing effect to skin problems. An easy treatment for minor wounds and scrapes is to use mullein tea as a wash. The flowers can also be infused in oil and used as a very effective treatment for ear infections. The infused oil combined with beeswax makes a mild but effective ointment that prevents and treats diaper rash.

Stock photo from

Because the flowers are tiny and open over a period of time, it's necessary to either harvest from a large patch or to pick the open flowers daily. Remember to harvest responsibly: don't strip a patch bare by taking all the plants and/or flowers.

Have you ever noticed a mullein flower stalk that is twisted or crooked? The stalks indicate the contamination level of the soil. Straight stalks indicate clean soil; if the stalks are anything other than straight and healthy, the soil is contaminated by chemicals.

Remember, before using this or any herb, please research it fully. 
You are responsible for your own health. You'll find lots of information on using mullein at and Meadowsweet Herbs.

Other posts in this series:
Woolly Mullein
How to Harvest Yarrow
Curly Dock
DIY Herb Field Guide

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops. 
 Please visit my Blog Hops page for the links


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  1. Great post! I have to laugh though, a friend gave me three mullein plants about five years ago and now they.are.EVERYWHERE on our property! My hubby curses them even though I tell him how useful they are! LOL!!

  2. I love the quote at the beginning. I grew up thinking they were a noxious weed because they are everywhere. An old myth we also grew up with is that the snow depth would be equal to the tallest mullein!

  3. As deep as the flower spikes?? That would be a LOT of snow! Thank goodness it's only an old wives' tale.

  4. What an informational post! Thanks for sharing your herbal wisdom! I've seen this growing close to here. Now I know what it is and how to use it! Have a great week! Blessings from Bama!

  5. I'm glad it was helpful, Felecia.

  6. Fascinating! It just shows that there's a purpose for everything! Thanks for sharing this on The Maple Hill Hop!

  7. Thank you, Daisy. I really enjoy your hop.

  8. You might be a homesteader if you collect mullein seeds - love this post! Would you consider linking it up at Green Thumb Thursday?

  9. Thank you, Tessa. I'll be right over!

  10. I enjoyed reading this post. I have Common Mullein around my yard. In fact, one just sprouted up in the garden area and I was thinking of allowing it to grow there. Now I am curious to know if the stalk will grow straight or crooked. Guess I'll have to wait until next year to know for sure. Thank you for sharing on Green Thumb Thursday.

  11. Darlene1:05 PM

    Hi! I'm visiting from The Heritage Homesteaders Hop.

    Thanks for all the information. I learned a few more things I didn't know about mullein.

  12. You're welcome, Darlene. I'm glad you learned something new.

  13. That is a really neat looking weed! I am still getting used to the native plants here in Tucson. It is hard to learn what is a weed and what isn't.

  14. It really is interesting-looking with those big, fuzzy leaves, although as the summer goes on it gets rather untidy. It's very useful though and definitely worth having around. Thank you for stopping by, Heidi.

  15. My mother has this taking over her property. I'll have to give her the good news that it isn't just a nuisance weed. Thanks for sharing on Green Thumb Thursday and I hope to see you again today!

  16. Great info! I saved the URL for future reference. Now I'll be looking for some wild mullein around San Diego county ;)

  17. I believe I saw it there years ago, Mary! I hope you can find some.


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