This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Tallest Mullein Plant

  I remember as a kid seeing my first Mullein plant. I was fascinated by the softness of the leaves and the unusual green color that was so different from all the other plants growing around it. Of course we had no idea of all the cool things this plant was useful for. My Father was a hunter and he told me that the leaves can be used as emergency toilet paper, that's all I knew about it.
  As I got older, and became interested in Backpacking, I heard other "lore" surrounding this cool plant. We were told the soft leaves could be used to put in your boots as a soft cushion for your aching tired feet and can be used as a cushion between your boot and a blister that was forming on you foot to help ease the friction. Of course, the toilet paper idea traveled in these circles also.
  It wasn't till I became interested in Wild plants as food , Medicine and their utilitarian uses was I able to sort out the real traditional uses from the hearsay and even now I still learn new things this plant is useful for.
  When I first moved to NC, there were no Mullein plants to be found and I wondered if they grew here at all. It wasn't till about two and a half years ago did I find my first Mullein plant growing in a neglected part of my Medicinal Herb garden! I was excited to see it and cleared the surrounding plants so it would get plenty of Sun. Now, mullein has a two year growth cycle (biennial) . The first year the plant develops a Basal Rosette of leaves and the second year a tall flower spike grows from the center. So last summer the flower spike developed and I collected about a billion seeds ( the seeds are microscopically small) to plant in other places on my property. Turns out I didn't have to collect seeds because by the end of last summer there were Mullein Rosettes growing all over the place! There were probably another billion seeds that got distributed by Mother Nature. One plant in particular started to grow in my Strawberry patch and I noticed by the end of the summer and into the Fall that the plant was getting huge. The Rosette was easily three feet across and getting bigger throughout the winter.
  As the weather started to warm up this year, the Flower Spike, covered in leaves, started to grow upwards and some side spikes started to grow also making the plant even bigger than I ever dreamed. By the time the flowers started to die back and the plant got knocked over by a 60mph micro-burst during a thunder storm, the Mullein Plant was easily eight feet tall! Now this may not be the tallest Mullein plant in the world but it was the tallest most massive one I had ever seen.
 Mullein is an incredibly useful plant and I read about new uses all the time. But, as you may have noticed, I only like to write about things on this blog that I have actually tried and used in my life. My own personal Ethnobotanical Pursuits. Mullein Flowers are famous for their use in ear oils as a soothing healing remedy, especially combined with Garlic for ear infections. I have used this combo on occasion and have recommended it to others many times with good results. The Flowers are infused in Organic Olive Oil to make the infused oil. Most of the medicines this plant makes I have not had use for yet so this is the extent of my experience with its Medicinal uses. Please research this plant further to see if any of its Medicinal qualities can help you.
 I have actually used Mullein leaves as a cushion in my boots during backpacking trips and it has fended off blisters quite well. If you are a backpacker you will know the name moleskin, Mullein is like natures moleskin and soft insoles. The lore that the leaves are good for toilet paper is true, but as one of my teachers Tom Brown says, using this Sacred Plant for toilet paper will eventually come back and bite you in the ass! You see, even as a Medicinal plant, if you abuse Mullein you will probably eventually get a negative allergic like reaction to it. Tom calls this "poetic justice" to hunters who use this most Sacred Plant for something as degrading as toilet paper!
  The flower stem can be used as a spindle in a Bow Drill apparatus (HERE), especially if tipped with a harder wood. Because the stem can be quit long it makes a great Hand Drill spindle also. Though I have tried using a Hand Drill on several occasions, I have yet to get a fire started this way.