Weed? Not to Me!

By Terry Golson


Last year a smallish fuzzy plant grew next to our front deck steps. Our house is new construction and the ground there is packed dirt and gravel. I was happy to see something take root, and I liked the color and texture so although it looked to be a “weed” I let it be. This year that same plant returned, much bigger and robust than I remembered it. Here it is on June 3.

 

It has soft and velvety leaves. Like lambs ears, but much too large to be that plant.

 

It seems to grow daily. Blink and it changes shape and size. In less than two weeks it had grown this tall and there was some sort of flower stalk emerging.

 

I wanted to be surprised by it, but I also wanted to know what I was seeing. So after watching it for a couple of weeks I read up on it.

 

It is a common mullein. This page from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Master Gardener site has an excellent description and history of this plant. It grows in poor soil from seed and is a biennial, so this year is its last show-stopping hurrah.

 

The flowers on the stalk flower successively, starting at the bottom and each day moving up. Daily entertainment for me!

 

At full height and bloom it’s taller than me. I’m a petite 5’2″, but still!

 

The leaves harbor things of interest. A grasshopper lives here, safely camouflaged. Green on green. See it?

 

Here’s a closer look.

 

Even hummingbirds relish this plant.

 

I’m hoping that some of it’s seeds will find my yard hospitable, which is likely because this plant likes poor, dry, sandy soil, which is exactly what I have here. Although the common mullein looks like it should be a native plant, it isn’t, but it has been here a long time. It was likely imported in the 1700s for medicinal purposes. It’s not invasive and native pollinators thrive on its flowers. It’s been a treat to have this show up right at my doorstep. How fascinating it’s been to observe the lifecycle of this plant!

 

What do you have growing – maybe like the mullein that’s classified as a weed – that’s been a joyous surprise?


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16 thoughts on “Weed? Not to Me!

  • Miriam Hedderson

    Aren’t mulleins so statuesque? We have them too – more or fewer, depending on the year. Lots of daisies and yarrow – all in bud too. It’s very hot here this week, but the blackflies are fewer in number – not having a good year (sad for them). So happy that you and Tonka are reunited!

  • Jaime Ferry

    I learned an interesting thing about this plant from
    Colorado. The natives say that the taller the Mullein are, the more snow we will get that coming winter, since they bloom in late August right before it gets cold in CO. I’m pretty sure there isn’t much truth to it but I found it interesting! There must have been something that initially suggested this correlation to them.

  • Michelle McMillen

    This year I’ve had a few pansies (I call them ‘happy faces’) pop up in the flowerbed, lawn, and even the gravel driveway somewhat near the pot where I have some planted. Seeing their pretty purple flowers in unexpected places is definitely a joyous surprise.

  • John Schaller

    We have mulleins in some areas near here, too, particularly in the mountains. https://www.birdandhike.com/Veg/Species/Forbs-P/Verbas_tha/_Ver_tha.htm They are a favorite plant to see on summer hikes, along with thistles! In town, we actually get volunteer snapdragons and gomphrena, both of which seem to be able to germinate successfully in our soil so long as they have a bit of moisture. We got volunteer Perky Sues, which I believe are native, in one area of the yard one year a few years back.

  • Gin

    I love mullein’s also, even if they are classified as a weed. They grow here also on my poor clay, rocky, ground. You can make a strong tea from the leaves and soak a rag in it warm and it will help take the pain out of bruises or strains or whatever. I’ve done it.

  • Karen Asbridge

    My favorite wildflowers are Foxglove, which are abundant over my walkway, flower beds and pastures. Tall stalks with bells of purple, pink, white and everything in between. In full bloom right now, making my yard shine!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Foxglove are gorgeous, but they are poisonous (also called digitalis, where heart medicine originally came from.) In fact, a property that I used to live near was a foxglove farm around WWI and harvested the plants for the medicine. I’ve never been able to have them in my garden. Silly goats would have eaten them! But oh so pretty.

  • Ellen Kirkendall

    I have had bleeding heart and ferns come to live in my Massachusetts garden. Now that I live in Palm Springs, in the low desert, I can’t expect any pretty volunteers. Too bad for me!