Monday, March 27, 2017

Controlling Mullein in Your Landscape By Joyce D’Agostino

Common Mullein, photo courtesy Common Sense Homesteading
Last year I was surprised to find a plant volunteering in one of my raised beds that had some unusual features, including a tall spire that had small yellow flowers. In addition it had thick and very soft fuzzy leaves. I learned that this plant is the Mullein, Verbascum thapsus. This plant goes by several common names including flannel leaf and can be found in fields, pastures, along roadsides and even in your garden. 

Verbascum thapsus, photo courtesy Lookout Mountain Nature Center

The main feature of this plant is the thick leaves that have a soft, downy covering. After last year’s flowering and seed production, this year I have many small Mullein plants coming up. These plants obviously easily regenerate from seed and can take over your garden area or yard, so controlling these volunteers is necessary. The plants generate many seeds that stay viable for long periods of time in the soil. Birds and other animals that may forage the seeds can spread the seeds to many locations. 
Most homeowners will notice that these plants attract certain insects such as the wool carder bee which can use the fine hairs on the leaves to line their nests. Honeybees and bumble bees also like to forage the yellow flowers on the spikes.
However here in Colorado, the common Mullein is considered a List C noxious weed. The statement below from the State of Colorado noxious weed site summarizes how property owners should handle these plants should they start to appear and multiply in your landscape. While these plants may have positive qualities, they are persistent and can become a problem if not controlled. 
If you have any volunteer plant appear on your landscape and not sure if it is considered a noxious weed, the sources below can assist you with any questions or concerns:
“Common mullein is designated as a “List C” species on the Colorado Noxious Weed Act. It is required to be either eradicated, contained, or suppressed depending on the local jurisdictions managing this species. For more information, visit or call the State Weed Coordinator at the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Conservation Services Division, 303-239-4100.”