common mullein

A second-year common mullein  (Verbascum thapsus) with a few random flowers. These flower stalks can grow to be more than 6 ft. tall and were supposedly dipped in tallow and used as torches in ancient times.

                 (Photos by Elby  Adamson/Dispatch)

Over the years, when I  was teaching about nature and the environment, at various contests my students were asked to find plants that had a rosette. Sometimes they were simply asked to bring back a specimen from an area and identify it by matching it to a name on a list. Common mullein was a plant that early in its growth formed a rosette and showed up on ID lists.

I recall mullein because many students were aware of its usefulness. Several who had been in the Boy Scouts, told me they had learned to call it the “toilet paper plant.”