PO Box 419

Hotchkiss, CO 81419



fax: 720-880-3051



Moth mullein

Verbascum blattaria L.


Keys to Identification

  • Showy yellow to white flowers with purple centers.

This information courtesy of the Colorado Natural Areas Program


Family: Figwort ( Scrophulariaceae)


Other Names: slippery mullein




Legal Status: Colorado Noxious Weed List B




Lifecycle: Biennial


Growth form: Forb


Flower: Occur on the ends of the erect flowering stems that are produced during the second year of growth. Individual flowers are yellow to white, usually with some tinge of purple within. Flowers have 5 petals and each flower occurs on an individual flower stalk (peduncle).


Seeds/Fruit: A round capsule about 1/3 in wide. The capsule splits when mature into two cells filled with tiny dark brown seeds. The surface of each seed is marked with wavy ridges.


Leaves: Leaves initially develop as a basal rosette of leaves during the first year of growth and then occur alternately along the flowering stem during the second year of growth. Leaves are without hairs (glabrous), oblong, tapering to a point, with distinctly toothed margins.


Stems: Erect solitary (normally), or branching near the top, only slightly hairy in the upper portions, reaching 2-5 ft tall.


Roots: Taproot with fibrous root system.


Seedling: Cotyledons are spatula-shaped. First true leaves are oval with only slightly wavy margins. Subsequent leaves have more scalloped or toothed margins. Seedlings are very similar in appearance to common mullein but lack hairs.



Similar Species

Exotics: Other ornamental Verbascums


Natives: none




Agricultural: Can be invasive in pastures and rangelands affecting forage quality and quantity. Moth mullein can occasionally be problematic in perennial cropping systems.


Ecological: Can be invasive in natural, rights-of-ways and neglected areas.



Habitat and Distribution

General requirements: Pastures, hay fields, rights-of-ways and abandoned areas preferring rich soils but will tolerate dry, sandy or gravely soils.


Distribution: Throughout the U.S. (excluding Alaska, Minnesota and Wyoming)



Biology/ Ecology

Life cycle: Biennial


Mode of reproduction: Seed


Seed production: 1000 capsules


Seed bank: 90 years


Dispersal: Birds are reported to feed on and potentially distribute seeds.




The Ohio State University (n.d.) Moth Mullein. Retrieved 11/04/2005


USDA, NRCS. 2005. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA


Virginia Tech University. (n.d.) Moth Mullein: Verbascum blattaria. Retrieved 11/04/2005


Whitson, T.D.(ed.), L.C. Burrill, S.A. Dewey, D.W. Cudney, B.E. Nelson, R.D. Lee, R. Parker. 1996. Moth mullien. Weeds of the West. Western Society of Weed Science, in cooperation with the Western United States Land Grant Universities Cooperative Extension Services, Newark CA.



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