(Verbascum Blattaria) Figwort family
Flowers - Yellow, or frequently white, 5-parted, about 1 in.
broad, marked with brown; borne on spreading pedicles in a long,
loose raceme; all the filaments with violet hairs; 1 protruding
pistil. Stem: Erect, slender, simple, about 2 ft.
less, or much taller. Leaves: Seldom present at flowering time;
oblong to ovate, toothed, mostly sessile, smooth.
Preferred Habitat - Dry, open wasteland; roadsides, fields.
Flowering Season - June-November.
Distribution - Naturalized from Europe and Asia, more or less
common throughout the United States and Canada.
Quite different from its heavy and sluggish looking sister is
this sprightly, slender, fragile-flowered mullein. "Said to repel
the cockroach (Blatta). hence the name Blattaria; frequented by
moths, hence moth mullein." (Britton and Brown's "Flora.") Are
the latter frequent visitors? Surely there is nothing here to a
moth's liking. New England women used to pack this plant among
woolen garments in summer to keep out the tiny clothes moths. The
flower, whose two long stamens and pistil protrude as from the
great mullein's blossom, and whose filaments are tufted with
violet wool footholds - unnecessary provisions for moths, which
rarely alight on any flower, but suck with their wings in motion
- are cross-fertilized by pollen-collecting bees and flies as
described in the account of the great mullein.
"Of beautiful weeds quite a long list might be made without
including any of the so-called wild flowers," says John
Burroughs. "A favorite of mine is the little moth mullein that
blooms along the highway, and about the fields, and maybe upon
the edge of the lawn." Even in winter, when the slender stem, set
with round brown seed-vessels, rises above the snow, the plant is
pleasing to the human eye, as it is to that of hungry birds.
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