Occasionally I find I have random plants popping up in my flower beds. These plants make an appearance despite me not planting them there. I call these my “gifts from the birds.” Let’s face it, seeds migrate. There’s evidence of plants moving across entire continents. Windblows seeds. Waterways carry seeds. Seeds can cling to animal fur. Birds eat the seeds and sometimes they leave droppings with still viable seeds in it.
Once of the summer gifts from the birds that I am overjoyed to see in the side ditches this summer is mullein. This is a distinctive plant that makes its presence known. It is described as growing one to two feet in height in most informational sources, but I have seen them taller than me. So, they have gotten over five foot three inches tall. They have one stem and around this stem fuzzy, broad leaves grow in a whorled pattern. The single flower stalk is home to the small balls from which the little yellow flowers bloom. They are native to Asia and Europe, but have made their way west to North America. It grows readily in the midwest and eastern states. Here in Ohio I get to enjoy this plant often.
Mullein is sometimes referred to Kings Lantern. Its Latin name is Verbascum thapsus, but there are a ton of different plants that belong to the Verbascum species. Mullein is listed in many herbals as being especially beneficial for the lungs and respiratory system. Through the ages, the fuzzy leaves were used to line the insides of shoes to insulate against the cold. There are wives’ tales about this being enough to help remedy lung congestion.
The flowers can be boiled in olive oil to produce an oil many people use to alleviate the pain associated with ear aches. Boil these same flowers in honey and you get a delicious syrup which is said to relieve cough and chest congestion. The leaves and roots can be dried, powdered and encapsulated. These capsules are then ingested to aid with a host of discomforts. It has emollient and astringent properties, so it can soothe irritated tissues, including skin.
Mullein is a treasured gift from the birds.
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