Each month ABC’s magazine Gardening Australia fills my letterbox. While it is always packed with fascinating information and temptations to try new methods and plants, it is through the competition crossword that I learn the most.
July’s issue (which arrived in June and I have now absorbed) asked for a word meaning ‘plant also known as common mullein’ and gave a photo of an upper stem with open flowers. I didn’t recognise that portion of the plant nor had I heard of ‘common mullein’. So off I went to ‘trusty’ Google and discovered Wikipedia with a plethora of alternative names and found Aaron’s Rod was the one that fitted. But, beastly careless, I wanted to know what the plant looked like.
The Motherearthliving website showed me photographs.
To my surprise I recognised a plant that I routinely pull as a weed from my garden; one that has self-seeded from elsewhere. Out into my garden I went and found three healthy specimens; this time I have left them to grow.
Out on the street I saw one growing through the bitumen.
In the past when I let these ‘weeds’ grow, if I remember correctly it was a long hard root to remove and that is why I have been pulling them when still at this size or smaller. But maybe a few won’t hurt.
Apparently this plant has many useful medicinal and other purposes. The RXLIST website says, ‘The flower is used to make medicine. Mullein is used for cough, whooping cough, tuberculosis, bronchitis, hoarseness, pneumonia, earaches, colds, chills, flu, swine flu, fever, allergies, tonsillitis, and sore throat. Other uses include asthma, diarrhoea, colic, gastrointestinal bleeding, migraines, joint pain, and gout. It is also used as a sedative and as a diuretic to increase urine output. Mullein is applied to the skin for wounds, burns, haemorrhoids, bruises, frostbite, and skin infections (cellulitis). The leaves are used topically to soften and protect the skin. In manufacturing, mullein is used as a flavouring ingredient in alcoholic beverages.’ Healthline says ‘The leaves are harvested near the bottom of the plant and used either fresh or dried to make various products. Mullein oil is extracted from the flower or leaves of the plant. The oil is used as a remedy for earaches, eczema, and some other skin conditions’. Then this site proceeds to provide a list of all the other possible uses.
But is it edible? The seeds are poisonous. The website Ediblefoods says ‘Although the leaves and flowers are edible, enjoying a cup of tea made from these parts is generally preferable. Leaves and flowers can be used in a salad.’
I have always loved the look of their soft looking leaves and the way they wear delicate pale grey/greens. I like the way they stay compact although, if let grow, each of the lower leaves can be 20 or more centimetres long so they provide a decent ground cover. Now I know more about this ‘weed’ in my garden I will keep a few, and later try their flowers and leaves in a salad.
Apparently the soft leaves are wonderful for wiping your bum clean. Keep that in mind for the next pandemic when the supermarket shelves have emptied of toilet paper!