|...BLOOMING ALONG ROADSIDES AND IN ABANDONED FARM FIELDS|
Sunday, 9:30 AM. 58 degrees F at the ferry dock, the same on the back porch. Wind E with occasional moderate gusts. The sky is clear, the humidity 80%. The barometer is falling, now at 30.19" of mercury. The forecast tor the next ten days calls for mostly clear skies and temperatures in the low 70's, with chances of thunderstorms on Tuesday, Thursday and next Sunday. Awesome weather ahead!
The strawberry season is just about over except for some pick-your-own patches, a bit short this year, perhaps by a week. The cherry season has begun, a few days late. The first crop of sweet cherries, the Cavalier variety, is a bit sparse because of reduced pollination in the cold spring, and cherries are perhaps a bit smaller and less sweet than other years, but good none-the-less. The later Lapin variety looks like it will be a bumper crop.
The common mullein, Verbascum thapsis, in the Figwort (Scrophulariaceae) Family, is a favorite of mine, even though it is a field weed of European origin. The Latin name is said to be that used by the ancients for the plant. The golden yellow flowers, borne on long spikes, are a dominant feature of vacant fields and roadsides in summer. They just began blooming a day or two ago. Downy woodpeckers and other small seed eating birds love the seeds. Mullein is also called flannel plant for its broad, downy basal leaves. In England it is called "candles", which the plants do indeed resemble (some varieties with branched seed stalks actually look like elaborate candelabras).
There are about 360 species in the genus, which are biennials and perennials, and the common mullein has a number of selected varieties that have become popular horticultural plants, particularly in England. Even the species, a farm field weed, is striking if one or two are left to grow in the garden, which I always do.
In medieval times mullein flower stalks were dipped in tallow and used as ceremonial candles for various occasions, and were also said to ward off witches and evil spirits. The French-Canadian common name, Tabac du diable, translates to "devil's tobacco," and the dried leaves, smoked like tobacco, are said to relieve asthma and tubercular cough. The mulleins have a long history in folk and herbal medicine for the relief of various ailments, and oil of the mullein seeds is still used successfully for children's ear infections and is available over the counter.
I always like to have a mullein plant growing somewhere in the garden, as the fuzzy leaves make an excellent poultice for cuts, bruises and minor infections, such as arise from splinters and thorns.
My records are pretty consistent for first bloom of common mullein in the middle of July, perhaps a week or so earlier in an early spring, so this year it is again right about on time, despite the long, very cool and wet spring weather.