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Verbascum blattaria


Verbascum blattaria, or moth mullein,<ref name=BSBI07>Template:Cite web</ref> is a flowering biennial weed belonging to the Scrophulariaceae (figwort) family. An invasive species native to Eurasia and North Africa, it has naturalized in the United States and most of Canada since its introduction.<ref>Template:GRIN</ref> It has been declared a noxious weed by the state of Colorado.<ref name="United States Department of Agriculture">United States Department of Agriculture http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VEBL</ref>

Alternative names

Verbascum blattaria is more commonly referred to as the moth mullein, so named because of the resemblance of its flowers' stamen to a moth’s antennae.<ref name="Connecticut Botanical Society">Connecticut Botanical Society http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/verbascumblat.html</ref> This is not to be confused with the more popular and widely known common mullein (V. thapsus), a close relative of V. blattaria.<ref name="Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide">Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide</ref>


V. blattaria

The moth mullein is a biennial plant. In its first year of growth, its leaves develop as a basal rosette. During this first year, the stem of the plant remains extremely short. The leaves of the rosette are oblanceolate with deeply toothed edges and are attached to the stem by short petioles. The rosette can grow to a diameter of 16 in (40 cm) during this first year, with each individual leaf reaching a length up to 8 in. The mullein forms a fibrous root system with a deep taproot.<ref name="Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide">Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide</ref>

In the second year of growth, the stem of the mullein grows slender and erect, and can reach a height of 1½ to 3 ft. This length of stem is commonly referred to as the flowering stem. It usually grows unbranched, and leaves grow alternatively directly off the stem.<ref>Beidleman, L.H. and Kozloff, E.N. 2003. Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region. University of California Press, Berkeley.</ref> The leaves located on the flowering stem are similar to the leaves of the rosette; however, they tend to be smaller and elliptical with shallow-toothed edges and have sharply pointed tips. These leaves can reach a length of 5 in. Both the leaves of the rosette and the leaves of the flowering stem are dark green in color and glabrous (hairless).<ref>Hickman, J.C. 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley.</ref>

The flowers of the moth mullein are produced during the second year of growth on a loose raceme. Each flower is attached individually to the flowering stem by a pedicel. Each pedicel typically reaches a length less than 1 in. The flowers of the mullein consist of five petals and five anther-bearing stamens, and each flower can reach a diameter of 1 in (25 mm). The flowers can be either yellow or white and typically have a slight purple tinge. The stamens of the flower are orange in color and are covered in purple hairs, reminiscent to a moth’s antennae.<ref name="Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide"/> The flowers of the mullein bloom between June and October of the second year.<ref name="Connecticut Botanical Society"/>

The moth mullein grows a small, simple fruit that is spherical in shape and has a diameter less than 0.5 in. Each fruit is dark brown in color and contains numerous dark brown seeds. The fruit of the mullein develops, matures, and falls from the plant all in the second year of growth. In certain regions of the world, finches have been known to consume and distribute the seeds.<ref name="Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide"/><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


A native of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, the moth mullein has naturalized in most of North America since its introduction. It was first recorded in Pennsylvania in 1818, and was recorded in Michigan in 1840.<ref name="Michigan State University W.J. Beal Botanical Garden">Michigan State University W.J. Beal Botanical Garden</ref> It has since been found in almost every one of the continental United States, as well as in southern Canada and even Hawaii.<ref name="United States Department of Agriculture"/> In the United States, it is found most abundantly along the East Coast.<ref name="Michigan State University W.J. Beal Botanical Garden"/>

Distribution of V. blattaria in the US and Canada

Though having a wide range of habitats, the mullein is typically found in open fields such as pastures and meadows.<ref name="Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide"/> It can also found in open woods. The moth mullein prefers rich soils, but is tolerant of dry, sandy, and even gravelly soils.<ref name="Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide"/>

Uses and viability

Even in folk medicine, V. blattaria has not been attributed to a wide range of uses.<ref name="Michigan State University W.J. Beal Botanical Garden"/> However, a study conducted in 1974 reported that when a number of Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae were exposed to a methanol extract of moth mullein, at least 53% of the larvae were killed.<ref name="Michigan State University W.J. Beal Botanical Garden"/> V. blattaria has also long been known to be an effective cockroach repellent, and the name blattaria is actually derived from the Latin word for cockroach, blatta.<ref name="Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide"/>

In a famous long-term experiment, Dr. William James Beal, then a professor of botany at Michigan Agriculture College, selected seeds of 21 different plant species (including V. blattaria) and placed seeds of each in 20 separate bottles filled with sand.<ref name=Beal>Telewski, F.W. and Zeevaart, A.D. 2002. The 120-Year Period for Dr. Beal's Seed Viability Experiment. American Journal of Botany 89(8): 1285-1288.</ref> The bottles, left uncorked, were buried mouth down (so as not to allow moisture to reach the seeds) in a sandy knoll in 1879.<ref name=Beal/> The purpose of this experiment was to determine how long the seeds could be buried dormant in the soil, and yet germinate in the future when planted.<ref name=Beal/> In 2000, one of these bottles was dug up, and 23 seeds of V. blattaria were planted in favorable conditions, yielding a 50% germination rate.<ref name=Beal/>



External links

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