Sunday, August 05, 2012

Dark Mullein/Mørk Kongelys
 Verbascum nigrum
Vokslev Kalkgrav, Dark Mullein

Vokslev Kalkgrav, Dark Mullein
Dark Mullein is a wild perennial with a strong upright growth. It forms first a leaf rosette, and from there sprouts up the tall stem with many yellow flowers. The species is drought tolerant and often used in drought plant beds. The stem is square in cross section , pale reddish and almost hairless. The ground-leaves and the bottom stem-leaves are egg-shaped, the other stem-leaves are elliptic. All leaves have a sinuous toothy edge, dark green and almost shiny upper side, but light grey-green and hairy underside. The flowering is in July -August where the flowers are gathered in the upper part of the single stem. The single flowers have yellow petals and violet stamens.The fruits are capsules with many seeds.    

Djursland, Dark Mullein
The root system is a strong deep taproot with many side roots. The seed dispersal is very effective.

Dark Mullein has a natural spread in Sibiria and most of Europe. It is common in most of Denmark, but rare in West Jutland. The species is connected to open or lightly shaded habitats in a soil, which is lightly  moisty or a little dry and rich in humus, calcium and nutrients. It is therefore often found in uncultivated land, banks and pastures.In the heat-characterized oak woods like in a National park west of Warsaw the species is found together with Vincetoxicum hirundinaria, Festuca, Anthericum ramosum, Lilium martagon, Digitalis grandiflora and Silver birch

Great Mullein/ Filtbladet Kongelys 
Verbascum thapsus
Jydelejet, Møn, Great Mullein.
Great Mullein is a biennial plant with an upright growth. The first year the plant forms only a leaf rosette and the second year a stiff and strong stem sprouts up with propelled leaves and flowers in the upper part of the stem. The leaves ( both the ground-leaves and the stem-leaves) are egg shaped -elliptic with down-running  stalks, which brings the stem a "winged" look. The edge of the leaves have round points, and both sides are very grey-feltet. The flowering is in July-August, where the yellow flowers are gathered in a plume, which covers the outer half of the sprout. The flowers are a little irregular with three white-haired short and two long, almost hairless stamens. The fruits are capsules with lots of tiny seeds.  
The root system is a strong and deep taproot with many strong side roots.
The Great Mullein is naturally spread in a large area between the Canary Islands and West China and from the Mediterranean and up to Scandinavia and Sibiria. It is naturalized in North America, where the colonists introduced it as a medical plant, and in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Amercia. It prefers light-open or quite naked land without competition from other plants, and it grows best in raw and gravelled soil. At Gudhem klosterruin in Sweden the Great Mullein is found together with fx Common Columbine, Common Soapwort,  Common Toadflax, Satureja acinos, Mugwort, Lady's Bedstraw, Viola odorata, Perforate St. John's Wort, Rough Comfrey and Greater Celandine.  
The word Verbascum is possibly from the Latin barba which means beard, referring to the hairy leaves. The Danish name Kongelys refers to that the plant was used as a torch or to the similarity to a big candle. Konge means rising high.

Folk Medicine
Unconscious people were brought to life by sniffing to the smoke from the burning leaves of Verbascum. An essence from the flowers were used to bathe the body. Flowers were used in some expectorant "cough-tea", which among other things contained a sugar, which made the tea well-tasting. According to Henrik Smid (1546) the juice is good for smearing into the face "because it chases away those wrinkles which are in the forehead of old maidens". Henrik Harpestrens (+1244)  recommends it to cleanse evil liquids and Simon Paulli (1648)  was of the opinion that it was an excellent means when "the back of the intestinal goes out". 

The de-flowered stem was used for torches in order to keep the devil at a distance. The seeds contain a substance, which works as an anesthetic on fish, and monks used the stem as a fishing rod. The fish came up with the belly up and was easy to gather with the bare hands. The plant was used in love-charms. A finely divided plant, which had grown in the churchyard, gave the best medicine.

Today's use
The yellow flowers contain a softening mucus for the skin, and flowers and leaves are used in a tea to cure a dry cough.Modern examination and research have proved tuberculosis-retardant properties in extracts from the plant. The flowers can brake exema and heal wounds. The oil from the seeds soothes frostbites and cracked skin. Decoct from the root works diuretic - and when it is used in homeophathy it helps migraine and earache. 

Other use:
The hairy leaves from the Great Mullein were put into shoes to avoid frostbites

Source:  Anemette Olesen, Danske klosterurter, Aschehoug 2001. 

photo: 2007, 2008, 2011: grethe bachmann.


Wanda..... said...

Great Mullein is very common here on the property, although it seems to appear in different locations each year.

I've read women long ago would rub the leaves on their cheeks to cause an allergic reaction, so as to give the appearance of wearing rouge and dye from the flowers were once used to color hair.

Out on the prairie said...

The plant we have is similar to your great, but even larger leaved,similar flower.It is unique, but a non-native species.

Thyra said...

Hej Wanda, that's interesting. Maybe the dye gave the hair a golden shine.
(Should we try?)
It's a pretty plant, where I have seen it with those yellow flower-stems like candles up in the air.
Grethe ´)

Hej Steve, yes, but it seems it has been brought to North America from Europe by the colonists. They have obviously considered it an important medicinal plant.
Grethe `)