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Moth Mullein

Verbascum blattaria

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
180 centimetres tall
Fields, grassland, roadsides, wasteland.

Yellow, 5 petals
A narrow branched flower spike with lemon yellow flowers. The centre of the flowers are maroon-coloured. Flowers are purple-haired. Insect pollinated. The flower is named so because the stamens resemble a moth’s antennae.
Dark brown fruit, many-seeded. The seeds ripen from August to October.
A stickily hairy biennial plant with dark green, crinkled and lobed leaves.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Verbascum blattaria, also known as moth mullein, is a biennial herb that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family and can grow up to 6 feet tall. It has large, yellow or white flowers that bloom in the late spring and early summer. The leaves are green and covered in fine, soft hairs, and the plant has a tall, densely branched stem. Verbascum blattaria is considered an invasive weed in some areas, and it can be found in waste ground, roadsides, and along paths. It is not commonly used in traditional medicine or as a culinary herb. It's commonly known as "moth mullein" because it's thought that the flowers resemble the wings of moths.


Moth Mullein, or Verbascum blattaria, is a wildflower that belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family. This tall, showy plant is native to Europe and Asia but has been naturalized in North America, where it is found in fields, meadows, and along roadsides. It is commonly known as moth mullein due to its distinctive flowers that resemble moths in flight.

Appearance and Characteristics

Moth Mullein is a biennial plant that grows up to six feet tall. In the first year, it produces a low rosette of large, fuzzy leaves, which can grow up to a foot in length. In the second year, the plant sends up a tall stem covered with small, yellowish-white flowers that bloom in mid-summer. Each flower is about an inch across and has five petals with purple or reddish-brown spots at the base. The flowers are arranged in a long, slender spike that can be up to a foot long.

The leaves and stems of the plant are covered with a soft, woolly fuzz that protects the plant from moisture loss and herbivores. The leaves are lance-shaped with serrated edges and a prominent midrib. The stem is erect and sturdy, with branching near the top.


Moth Mullein has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The leaves and flowers contain a variety of compounds that are believed to have medicinal properties, including saponins, flavonoids, mucilage, and iridoid glycosides. In traditional medicine, it has been used to treat respiratory ailments such as coughs, colds, and bronchitis. It has also been used as a poultice for skin conditions and wounds.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Moth Mullein has other practical uses. The soft, woolly leaves and stems were once used to make wicks for oil lamps. The plant's tall stem makes it an attractive addition to cut flower arrangements.


Moth Mullein is easy to grow from seed and can be cultivated in a sunny or partially shaded area with well-drained soil. The plant prefers a slightly alkaline soil pH and is drought-tolerant once established. It is often grown in meadow or prairie gardens, where it adds height and texture to the landscape.

One thing to keep in mind when growing Moth Mullein is that it can be an aggressive self-seeder. To prevent it from becoming invasive, deadhead the spent flowers before they go to seed. This will also encourage the plant to produce more flowers.

Moth Mullein is a beautiful and useful plant that is easy to grow and maintain. Its distinctive flowers and fuzzy leaves make it a standout in the garden, and its medicinal properties and practical uses make it a valuable addition to any herbal medicine cabinet or homestead. Whether you are a gardener, herbalist, or nature lover, Moth Mullein is a plant that is well worth getting to know.

Additional Information

Moth Mullein has also been used in folklore and superstitions throughout history. In some cultures, the plant was believed to have protective properties and was used to ward off evil spirits. It was also used in love spells, as it was believed to have the power to attract a lover.

In recent years, Moth Mullein has gained attention for its potential as a natural dye. The flowers produce a yellow dye that can be used on fabric and yarn. The dye is extracted by boiling the flowers in water, and the resulting color can be modified by adding other natural substances such as alum or vinegar.

Despite its many benefits, it's important to note that Moth Mullein can be toxic in large quantities. The plant contains glycosides that can cause gastrointestinal distress, heart palpitations, and even convulsions if consumed in large amounts. As with any medicinal plant, it's important to use caution and seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider before using Moth Mullein for medicinal purposes.

In addition to its traditional uses, modern research has revealed potential new applications for Moth Mullein. Studies have shown that extracts from the plant possess antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. This has led to the development of new natural remedies and herbal supplements that contain Moth Mullein extract.

One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that Moth Mullein extract was effective in inhibiting the growth of several strains of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Another study published in the Journal of Natural Products found that the plant contains compounds with potent antiviral activity against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common cause of respiratory infections.

The anti-inflammatory properties of Moth Mullein have also been investigated, with promising results. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the plant contains compounds that are effective in reducing inflammation in the lungs, making it a potential treatment for respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Moth Mullein is not only useful for its medicinal properties but also for its ecological value. The plant is an important food source for various species of moths, butterflies, and bees. The fuzzy leaves and stems of Moth Mullein provide shelter for small insects and spiders, and the plant's flowers are a source of nectar for pollinators.

The plant's long taproot also helps to improve soil quality by breaking up compacted soil and drawing up nutrients from deeper layers. This makes it a valuable addition to restoration projects in areas where the soil has been disturbed, such as along roadsides or in construction sites.

In addition to its ecological benefits, Moth Mullein is also a popular ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes. Its tall, showy spikes of flowers add height and texture to borders and meadows, and its soft, fuzzy leaves provide an interesting contrast to other plants.

One of the best things about Moth Mullein is its versatility. Whether you're looking for a natural remedy, a dye plant, or a beautiful addition to your garden, this plant has something to offer. With its rich history and diverse uses, Moth Mullein is truly a remarkable plant that deserves our attention and respect.

Here are some interesting facts about Moth Mullein:

  1. Moth Mullein is native to Europe, but it has been introduced to other parts of the world and is now considered an invasive species in some areas.

  2. The plant is often confused with Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), which is a similar but larger species that is more commonly found in North America.

  3. The name "Moth Mullein" comes from the moth-like appearance of the flowers, which have fuzzy petals and are arranged in a spike.

  4. In traditional medicine, Moth Mullein was used to treat respiratory ailments such as coughs, bronchitis, and asthma, as well as skin conditions like eczema and burns.

  5. Moth Mullein was also used in ancient times as a source of lamp wick. The dried stems were dipped in wax or animal fat and burned as a crude form of lighting.

  6. The plant's seeds are known to be long-lived and can remain viable in the soil for up to 100 years, making Moth Mullein a persistent weed in some areas.

  7. Moth Mullein is a biennial plant, meaning it completes its life cycle over the course of two years. In the first year, it produces a rosette of leaves close to the ground, and in the second year, it sends up a tall flower stalk.

  8. In some cultures, Moth Mullein was believed to have magical properties and was used in divination rituals to predict the future.

These are just a few of the many interesting facts about Moth Mullein. Whether you're interested in the plant's medicinal properties, its ecological value, or its rich history and folklore, there's no denying that Moth Mullein is a fascinating and versatile plant with much to offer.


Moth Mullein filmed at Carnforth in Lancashire on the 27th August 2023.


Music credits
Stopping By the Inn by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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