Verbascum thapsus - L.
Common Mullein
Other English Common Names: Great Mullein, Velvet Plant, Woolly Mullein
Other Common Names: common mullein
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Verbascum thapsus L. (TSN 33394)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.155675
Element Code: PDSCR1Z080
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Figwort Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Scrophulariales Scrophulariaceae Verbascum
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Verbascum thapsus
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (17Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNA), Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ALexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic

Range Map
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Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: This biennial herb is a pioneer species, that quickly colonizes disturbed areas such as roadsides, pastures, and woodland margins. It occurs in all 50 states, but is especially problematic in western states and Hawaii. It is reproductively aggressive and the fast growth and high seed production of this plant makes this plant somewhat difficult to manage.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Low
I-Rank Review Date: 01Mar2004
Evaluator: Lu, S.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Native to all of Europe, and temperate Asia (Weber 2003).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: This species is a non-native that is established outside of cultivation (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: Invades natural areas in Hawaii and western U.S. (Weber 2003).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance
Comments: Has the potential to create unhealthy dynamics in an ecosystem by inhibiting natural processes (Coconino NF, no date). Fires are retarded in stands of this plant under normal conditions (Smith 1998). This plant disrupts the normal sequence of ecological succession by preventing the reinvasion of native herbs and grasses in burned areas after forest fires, although these areas eventually give way to a developing shrub canopy. Serves as a host for economic pest insects such as the mullein leaf bug, a pest of apples and pears in the eastern United States and Canada (Bossard et al. 2000).

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Moderate significance
Comments: Verbascum thapsus forms dense patches with the large rosettes that shade out native plants. This plant forms a continuous cover, that eliminates the native vegetation. (Weber 2003) Grows more vigorously than many native herbs and shrubs and its growth can overtake a site fairly quickly (Remaley 1998; Coconino NF, no date). In Hawaii, this plant forms a dense ground cover that displaces slower-growing native species (Smith 1998).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Verbascum thapsus forms dense patches with the large rosettes that shade out native plants. This plant forms a continuous cover, that eliminates the native vegetation. (Weber 2003) Grows more vigorously than many native herbs and shrubs and its growth can overtake a site fairly quickly (Remaley 1998; Coconino NF, no date). In Hawaii, this plant forms a dense ground cover that displaces slower-growing native species (Smith 1998). Competes with native flora and has the potential to create unhealthy dynamics in an ecosystem by inhibiting natural processes and stifling native plant spread (Coconino NF, no date). In Hawaii, this plant forms a monotypic cover that can outcompete native vegetation (Starr et al. 2003). In California, it displaces native herbs and grasses after establishing rapidly after forest fires in the western Sierra Nevada, by preventing the reinvasion of native herbs and grasses in burned areas. (Bossard et al. 2000).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Insignificant
Comments: No reported individual impacts.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Moderate significance
Comments: In Hawaii, it is found on Hawaii island in alpine and subalpine cinder fields, and upper-elevation wet forest openings (HI DLNR 2001).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Established in all 50 states (Kartesz 1999). It is well established throughout the eastern states (Remaley 1998). Scattered throughout Colorado and common throuhgout temperate parts of North America (NPWRC 1997). It is found throughout the United States except for the upper great plains (

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Moderate significance
Comments: Invades natural areas in Hawaii and the western US. Is present in the rest of the US but does not invade natural areas there. (Weber 2003) It is a state noxious weed in Colorado and Hawaii. In Hawaii, it is known from the island of Hawaii where it infests roadsides from 5,000-10,000 ft. It is particularly dense around 6,562 meet where it forms a monotypic cover that can outcompete native vegetation. (Starr et al. 2003). It occurs throughout California, but is particularly abundant in ddry valleys on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada (Bossard et al. 2000).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: In at least 35 ecoregions(Inference using data from Kartesz 1999 and TNC Ecoregion 2001 map).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Low significance
Comments: Invades grasslands, riparian habitats, and disturbed sites. This plant is found mainly on dry sandy soils and primarily colonizes sites of low fertility. (Weber 2003) Threatens natural meadows and forest openings, where it adapts to a wide variety of site conditions, but also is found in neglected pastures, road cuts, and industrial areas (Remaley 1998). In Hawaii, it is found on Hawaii island in alpine and subalpine cinder fields, and upper-elevation wet forest openings (HI DLNR 2001). In Arizona, grows on the pinyon, juniper, and ponderosa pine ranges (Parker 1972). In Arizona, this plant can be found within natural meadows and forest openings, as well as many human-disturbed areas like roadsides, neglected pastures, and industrial areas (Coconino NF, no date). In California, it is not a significant weed of most wildland and natural areas, but it is particularly abundant in dry valleys, moist meadows, creek crainages, and areas with dry, gravelly soils. It has invaded pristine meadows with undisturbed soils in California. (Bossard et al. 2000).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Low significance
Comments: General range is stable.

First introduced to the US in the mid-1700's as a fish poison and quickly spread throughout the US. It is well established throughout the eastern states (Remaley 1998).


11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Insignificant
Comments: Already occupies most of the United States.

In Hawaii, it is feared that this plant will spread from the island of Hawaii to similar native alpine ecosystems on Maui (Starr et al. 2003). Mean annual precipitation greater than 3-6 inches and the growing season is a minimum of 140 days. Does not tolerate shade. This plant will grow almost in any open area. Prefers but is not limited to dry sandy soils. (Remaley 1998)

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: This plant is dispersed over long-distances by the horticultural trade. In Hawaii, this plant was observed being cultivated on Maui, where the plant has escaped at least once, but has not established itself yet. In Hawaii, it has been speculated that seeds are dispersed in mud along roads by cars and along trails by hikers. (Starr et al. 2003). Movement of soil for highway and building construction may have assisted in seed dispersal of this plant (Bossard et al. 2000).

No specialized mechanism for natural long-distance dispersal (NPWRC 1997). Limited natural dispersability of seeds. Seeds are dispersed as far as 11 m, although 93% of them fall within 5 m of the parent plant (Hoshovsky 1986). However, Smith of the University of Hawaii Botany Department reports that the seeds are wind-dispersed (1998).


13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Medium/Low significance
Comments: In Hawaii, it is feared that this plant will spread from the island of Hawaii to similar native alpine ecosystems on Maui (Starr et al. 2003). Local populations in Arizona are not able to persist in an area unless it is continuously disturbed (Coconino NF, no date).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: This plant spreads rapidly after disturbances and forms a continuous cover (Weber 2003). This biennial herb is likely to be a colonizer in newly disturbed sites only if seeds are already present in the soil. It is unlikely to colonize a newly disturbed area without seeds in the soil already due to the limited dispersal ability of the seed. (Hoshovsky 1986). However, reportedly found in areas with no known disturbance for last 100 years (NPWRC 1997).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:High/Low significance
Comments: Common in chalk and limestone districts in England (Hoshovsky 1986). Invades natural areas in Australia. Established in but does not invade natural areas in New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Argentina, and tropical Asia. (Weber 2003). Also established in Canada (Kartesz 1999) in pastures with well-drained soils (Hoshovsky 1986). Furthermore, this plant is invasive in the Reunion Islands where it forms thick infestations in dry, rocky distured areas at elevations ranging from 5,000-10,000 ft and threatens to degrade native plant commmunities in the alpine zone(Starr et al. 2003).

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Is a prolific seeder, estimated to produce 100,000-180,000 seeds, which can remain viable in the soil for more than 100 years. This allows the plant to spread rapidly. Seeds germinate rapidly once they are exposed to light. (Weber 2003; Remaley 1998; Hoshovsky 1986) Does not reproduce vegetatively (Coconino NF, no date), but can be propogated from seeds, divisions, or root cuttings (Starr et al. 2003).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Low

17. General Management Difficulty:Low significance
Comments: Difficult to control due to the large number of seeds produced per plant (NPWRC 1997). No single control method or any one-year treatment plan, will ever achieve effective control of an area contaminated with this plant (Coconino NF, no date). Plants can be controlled by cutting before seed set or using repeated applications of herbicide (Weber 2003). An established population of mullein can be extremely difficult to eradicate. However handpulling is extremely effective in reducing popuations where soil disturbance can be minimized. On very steep slopes, herbicides can be used. (Remaley 1998). Angora and Spanish goats are showing promise as an effective control method in California. Surprisingly, chickens can thoroughly graze back vegetation in areas up to one acre in size, while effectively digesting and destroying all weed seeds passing through their gut[sic?]. Chickens are effective at reducing the seed bank of this plant. (Hoshovsky 1986). This plant has been partially controlled by a gall-forming insect which has reduced population size and range significantly in Hawaii (Smith 1998).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:High/Low significance
Comments: No one-year treatment plan, will ever achieve effective control of an area contaminated with this plant (Coconino NF, no date). Follow up is essential to control common mullein (Bossard et al. 2000).

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Low significance
Comments: Herbicides can be used in the early spring to reduce effects on native plants, because most other non-target egetation is dormant then (Remaley 1998).

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Insignificant
Comments: Fairly accessible. Invades grasslands, riparian habitats, and disturbed sites. This plant is found mainly on dry sandy soils and primarily colonizes sites of low fertility. (Weber 2003) Threatens natural meadows and forest openings, where it adapts to a wide variety of site conditions, but also is found in neglected pastures, road cuts, and industrial areas (Remaley 1998). In Hawaii, it is found on Hawaii island in alpine and subalpine cinder fields, and upper-elevation wet forest openings (HI DLNR 2001). In Arizona, grows on the pinyon, juniper, and ponderosa pine ranges (Parker 1972). In Arizona, this plant can be found within natural meadows and forest openings, as well as many human-disturbed areas like roadsides, neglected pastures, and industrial areas (Coconino NF, no date). In California, it is not a significant weed of most wildland and natural areas, but it is particularly abundant in dry valleys, moist meadows, creek crainages, and areas with dry, gravelly soils. It has invaded pristine meadows with undisturbed soils in California. (Bossard et al. 2000).
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Bossard, C.C., J.M. Randall, and M. Hoshovsky. (eds.) 2000. Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

  • Coconino National Forest. No date. San Francisco Peaks Weed Management Area Fact Sheet: Common Mullein - Verbascum thapsus. Southwest Exotic Clearinghouse (SWEPIC). Available: http://www.usgs.nau.edu/SWEPIC/factsheets/vethsf_info.pdf. (Accessed 2004).

  • Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources. 2001. Hawaii's most invasive horticultural plants. Available: http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dofaw/hortweeds/. (Accessed 2004>

  • Hoshovsky, M.C. 1986. Element Stewardship Abstract of Verbascum thapsus. California Field Office. The Nature Conservancy. San Francisco.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Meades, S.J. & Hay, S.G; Brouillet, L. 2000. Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University Botanical Gardens, St John's NF. 237pp.

  • Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, and United States Geological Survey. 1997. December 13-access date. An assessment of exotic plant species of Rocky Mountain National Park. Online. Available: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/othrdata/Explant/explant.htm#contents. (Accessed 2004).

  • Parker, K. F. 1972. An illustrated guide to Arizona weeds. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ. [http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/weeds/titlweed.htm]

  • Remaley, T. 1998. Common mullein - Verbascum thapsus. Plant Conservation Alliance Alien Plant Working Group (PCA APWG) Weeds Gone Wild Factsheets. Available: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/veth1.htm. (Accessed 2004).

  • Smith, C.W. 1998. Impact of Alien Plants on Hawai'i's Native Biota, Pest Plants of Hawaiian Native Ecosystems. University of Hawaii, Botany Department. Online. Available: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/cw_smith/aliens.htm#Plant%20Pests%20of%20Hawaiian%20Native (accessed 2004).

  • Starr, F., K. Starr, and L. Loope. 2003. Plants of Hawaii Reports. USGS - Biological Resources Division, Haleakala Field Station. Available: http://www.hear.org/starr/hiplants/reports/. (Accessed 2004).

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Virginia Cooperative Extension. No date. Virginia Tech weed identification guide. Available: http://www.ppws.vt.edu/weedindex.htm. (Accessed 2004).

  • Weber, E. 2003. Invasive plant species of the world: a reference guide to environmental weeds. CABI Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 548 pp.

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