Common Mullein
Verbascum thapsusScrophulariaceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerFlowerLeaf
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Velvet dock, Big taper, Candle-wick, Flannel-leaf, Woolly mullein

The Plant:

  • An herbaceous biennial, 2-6 feet tall. Leaves and stem densely wooly. Plants are erect, forming a basal rosette in the first year.

The Leaves:

  • alternate
  • simple
  • oblong
  • thick
  • narrow at base
  • round teeth
  • basal leaves on petioles

The Stem:

  • tall
  • stout
  • simple
  • rarely with erect branches
  • hairs branched

The Flowers:

  • Yellow, five-petaled flowers growing in a dense cylindrical spike. Blooms from late June to September.

The Fruits:

  • brownish-yellow 2-celled capsule
  • seeds numerous, with alternating wavy ridges and deep grooves

The Habitat:

  • fields
  • waste places, roadsides, disturbed areas
  • dry sandy locations


  • seeds are passively dispersed near the parent plant during fall and winter

Key ID Features:

  • densely wooly
  • alternate
  • thick leaves
  • soft
  • tall stout
  • large yellow spike

Similar Species:

  • Mullein is a very distinct plant that has few similar species except ornamental Lamb's-ear which has purplish-pink flowers and possibly Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) which lacks the densely fuzzy leaves, robust appearance and has toothed leaf margins.


  • Common mullein can produce about 100,000-180,000 seeds per plant causing a great threat to botanical diversity since the establishment of mullein can cause native plants to be displaced since it is adaptable to a variety of habitats and eradication of an established population is difficult.
  • On Nantucket, dense populations can be found growing on beaches.

Growth Form: Herb

Origin: Europe, Asia

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Likely Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Does not meet criteria

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: no

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston