Common Mullein in Winter

by Carl Strang

Biennial plants often have two winter forms. Their first year ends with a ground-hugging, basal rosette or cluster of leaves that often remains green through the cold months. The second year they flower, produce seeds, and die, leaving the spent stalk for the second winter. Today’s example is the common mullein.

Here is a winter rosette as it appears in March.

Here is a winter rosette as it appears in March.

The leaves are thick and velvety fuzzy. The second-year stalks are what I call cognates, as they are not all that different in appearance from their growing season form.

The leaves have collapsed, and the plant has turned brown, but the plant’s stature, thick stem and fruiting tip are unique.

The leaves have collapsed, and the plant has turned brown, but the plant’s stature, thick stem and fruiting tip are unique.

The densely clustered capsules at the tip of the stem.

The densely clustered capsules at the tip of the stem.

And here is one such tip in bloom.

And here is one such tip in bloom.

Mullein is not native, but as far as I know it is not particularly invasive.

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