Verbascum: characteristics of the species

In the past, mullein leaves, stringy when dried, were used to make wicks for oil lamps. In fact, the vulgar names of “lucerna” or “candle” always referring to the verbascum come to us from the Renaissance. The sturdy stems of this species were once used to light the bread ovens, due to the great flammability of the suitably dried flower stalks. The housewives of the past used the verbascum flowers to prepare a yellow dye which was not very resistant. There is also another species the verbascumblattarium to which insecticidal properties were attributed or at least to keep away from the houses insects, once rather widespread. There are beautiful verbascum hybrids on the market, among these there is: the “pink domino” with pink flowers; the “golden bush” with yellow flowers with pink stamens; the “miss willmott” with white flowers; the “mont blanc” also with beautiful white flowers.

Sowing, transplanting, multiplication

The verbascum genus includes very numerous species, about 300, many of which have medicinal properties. Verbascum is a widespread plant in the temperate regions of the Old World and in the coastal regions of the eastern Mediterranean. In Italy they meet spontaneously almost everywhere, both in the plains and in the mountains up to the upper limit of coniferous woods and pastures, often even over 2,000 meters above sea level. The medicinal properties of verbascum, in particular of verbascum thapsus, are obtained from the leaves and flowers with a purifying, diuretic, emollient action. Given its high diffusion in Italy, the verbascum takes on various regional and local names: badger barbasso, levantone, caruga, tassu, cadumbulu. Most mullein species are biennials and self-seed very easily. Sowing takes place in April.

Soil, watering, fertilization

Verbascum is a plant that adapts to any soil, even stony, therefore well drained and in full sun. They are species that do not require particular cultural care, care that is exhausted in a spring fertilization and in an emergency watering in case of drought. This plant loves full sun, if in partial shade the plants stretch and fold. The most suitable soil is, therefore, calcareous, sandy, dry. The worst enemy of the verbascum is the black aphid at the time of flowering. The plant, in case of parasite attack, must be treated to avoid losing it with specific products that can be purchased either in the nursery or in specialized shops. Verbascum can also be cultivated, sowing it in seedbeds, in July and August, to then transplant to the home before the winter season.


The flowering of the verbascum is typical of the summer months, although some species already begin flowering in early June. The flowers are gathered in long racemes, similar to yellow, white, pink, dark pink and creamy yellow spikes are the colors of the hybrids. This species belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family. Verbascum is widely used in the field of herbal medicine. Flowers and leaves of this species are used to combat cough, pharyngitis, tracheitis, bronchitis. Verbascum, in fact, has remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. Not many people know that the parts of this plant also have sedative and diuretic properties. Verbascum is therefore considered a medicinal plant. The leaves of the plant are very popular with a beautifully colored bird, the Rock Partridge, which lives in the Alps.

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