common mullein USDA PLANTS Symbol: VETH
U.S. Nativity: Exotic
Habit: Forbs/Herbs
Verbascum thapsus L.

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Taxonomic Rank: Magnoliopsida: Scrophulariales: Scrophulariaceae
Synonym(s): big taper, flannel mullein, flannel plant, great mullein, mullein, velvet dock, velvet plant, woolly mullein
Native Range: Europe and Asia ()

Verbascum thapsus is a biennial forb native to Eurasia and Africa. Plants are unbranched and can grow to more than 6.6 ft. (2 m) tall.
First year plants develop as a basal rosette of felt-like leaves. Basal leaves are 4-12 in. (10.2-30.5 cm) long, 1-5 in. (2.5-12.7 cm) wide and covered with woolly hairs. Cauline (stem) leaves are decurrently alternate and decrease in size towards the apex.
The plant bolts in the second year. Flowering occurs in June to August, when five-petaled, yellow flowers develop at the apex of the shoot. Plants die after flowering.
The fruit is a ovoid capsule that splits, releasing 100,000 to 180,000 seeds from the parent plant, that germinate in water.
Ecological Threat
Once established it grows quickly to form a dense ground cover. It can overtake and displace native species. At the high densities, it appears to prevent establishment of native herbs and grasses following fires or other disturbances. Verbascum thapsus occurs in areas with an average annual precipitation of 20-60 in. (0.5-1.5 m) and a 140-day growing season. It prefers well-drained soils with pH 6.5 to 7.8. It prefers dry sandy soils but can grow in chalk and limestone. It can be found in neglected meadows, forest openings, pastures, fence rows, roadsides, and industrial areas.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Selected Images from Invasive.orgView All Images at

Plant(s); June. Photo from Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses by J.H. Miller and K.V. Miller, published by The University of Georgia Press in cooperation with the Southern Weed Science Society.
James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society,
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Steve Dewey, Utah State University,
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Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, ,
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Foliage; leaves
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,
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Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, ,
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Flower(s); deformed flowerhead
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,
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Plant(s); habit
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,
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Plant(s); in flower
Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired),
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Steve Hurst, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database,
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EDDMapS Distribution:
This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts and records obtained from USDA Plants Database. For more information, visit

State(s) Where Reported invasive.
Based on state level agency and organization lists of invasive plants from WeedUS database.

U.S. National Parks where reported invasive:
Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Virginia)
Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
Booker T Washington National Monument (Virginia)
Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)
Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)
Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho)
Eisenhower National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)
Fort Bowie National Historic Site (Arizona)
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park (Virginia)
George Washington Birthplace National Monument (Virginia)
Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina & Tennessee)
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia)
Lake Mead National Park (Nevada)
Manassas National Battlefield Park (Virginia)
Monocacy National Battlefield Park (Maryland)
Petersburg National Battlefield (Virginia)
Prince William Forest Park (Virginia)
Richmond National Battlefield Park (Virginia)
Rocky Mountains National Park (Colorado)
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (Californina)
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Stones River National Battlefield (Tennessee)
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Yosemite National Park (California)

Invasive Listing Sources:
California Invasive Plant Council
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Eric Ulaszek, U.S. Forest Service, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois
Faith Campbell, 1998
Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council
Hoffman, R. & K. Kearns, Eds. 1997. Wisconsin manual of control recommendations for ecologically invasive plants. Wisconsin Dept. Natural Resources, Bureau of Endangered Resources. Madison, Wisconsin. 102pp.
Jil M. Swearingen, Survey of invasive plants occurring on National Park Service lands, 2000-2007
John Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Survey of TNC Preserves, 1995.
Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2005
Missouri Department of Conservation,
Native Plant Society of Oregon, 2008
New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, 2004
Pacific Northwest Exotic Pest Plant Council, 1998
Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, Pennsylvania.
Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council
University of Hawaii, Botany Department, Hawaiian Alien Plant Studies, 1998