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mullein in permaculture

 
Jeanine Gurley
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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What benefit, if any, would mullein provide my other plants?
My nieghbor has some that I can get seeds from.

I have read that it has a shallow tap root so I know that it won't help bring up water or nutrients from below.

Is there any other benefit to having it in my own garden?  If I want it just for the herbal effects I can just get some from her.
 
Dave Bennett
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I am not sure of a symbiotic relationship for your other plants but what I would do is grow something else and get what you need from your friend.  Maybe you are growing something she can use.  I love the barter system.  I love not using monetary system whenever possible.
 
Travis Philp
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They would provide unique structure and habitat once they bolt and flower. I see tall flowering plants as beacons for pollinators. You could maybe grow some pole beans up the stalks. I don't think mullein sucks up a lot of nutrients due to it growing commonly in nutrient poor, degraded soils, which would mean it might not take too much away from nearby plants. Not sure though.

You could use the self-dried flower stalk as a torch btw
 
Dave Bennett
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Travis Philp wrote:
They would provide unique structure and habitat once they bolt and flower. I see tall flowering plants as beacons for pollinators. You could maybe grow some pole beans up the stalks. I don't think mullein sucks up a lot of nutrients due to it growing commonly in nutrient poor, degraded soils, which would mean it might not take too much away from nearby plants. Not sure though.

You could use the self-dried flower stalk as a torch btw

I am not that familiar with it.  Does it have a deep taproot?  If it does then it will be beneficial to almost anything else growing near it.  Dandelions bring lots of minerals to the surface.  I love them for improving soil. 
 
Pat Black
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Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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Yes, it has a big tap root and is good for opening up the soil. It is biennial. Once it dies there is a nice deep pathway full of rotting organic matter than can be used by another plant. Also the leaves make good toilet paper when nothing else is around!
 
Dave Bennett
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I guess I will have to grow some then.
 
Jordan Lowery
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i use it to shade a lot of smaller plants in the forest garden. where the seedlings would otherwise get full sun all day. the flowers and leaf are medicinal, good for pollinators. the leaves make a nice winter insulating mulch for the less hardy plants and tubers.
 
Dave Bennett
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That sound cool to me.  Do you know the cold tolerance?
 
Jordan Lowery
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ours have handled very low teens with no problem at all. ill assume they can handle down to 0 possibly more.
 
Dave Bennett
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That works. 
 
Pat Black
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Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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Dave Bennett wrote:
That sound cool to me.  Do you know the cold tolerance?


I've seen it survive -26 F this past winter here in New Mexico at 7300 feet. Not sure I want to experience anything colder than that!
 
Dave Bennett
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Well the data says zone 5 and that is much of upstate NY so I am not worried since I may be here in Va. for another year but if not then I will be in upstate NY unless something mo' betta comes along.
 
Paul Cereghino
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I usually see it recruiting on poor bare ground.  I have moved starts from dry bare sites into my food forest, but on my site the seed fall hasen't resulted in more seedlings under mulched or competative situations.  I would describe it as a 'ruderal stress tolerator' specializing in colonizing bare dry ground and surviving drought.  I could imagine growing it with lupines
 
maikeru sumi-e
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I saw one today on the hillside close by my home, growing in poor, rocky soil just by its lonesome. Immediately recognized it thanks to this thread. I'll try to gather seeds later now that I know it's a medicinal.
 
paul wheaton
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I have been collecting video footage of mullein.  If anybody has some, please take pictures and post here.  Especially closeups of the leaves.  Or pictures of really BIG plants. 
 
Haru Yasumi
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They do make a lot of surface area for various critters.  I could imagine shading out weeds with them as others have mentioned and their leaves seem like they'd be great compost.

This mullein is taller than me and not even begun to flower yet.  Poor rosemary behind it is being shaded out but   I have 3 or 4 more quite large ones growing here - the picture of the flowers is from a separate plant.
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IMG_4418 (Large).jpg
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pick the flowers as they bloom and infuse in some olive oil with a clove of crushed garlic.  Use a few drops in a heavy loaded wax ear or a very itchy ear.

Tami
 
ronie dee
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Leaves make great toilet paper substitute.

Quote Allison:

Just as I was about to transplant all my little mullein seedlings to form a 'garden' around our composting loo, I read this ....

"Mullein tea is made from the leaves of a 1st-year plant and is considered a good cough suppressant. A similar tea can be made from the root after cleaning, peeling, and dicing. Although the leaves feel soft and fuzzy they do not make good "wild" toilet paper as the small hairs can get stuck in your skin which is very uncomfortable."
http://www.foragingtexas.com/2006/12/mullien.html

So, user beware!  I've changed my plans!
 
Haru Yasumi
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Dave Bennett wrote:
Has anyone fed Mullein to rabbits?  Mugwort is OK for them to eat and it is the same genus so I was wondering......


They are not the same genus.  I don't know about feeding to rabbits but I imagine it'd be safe.
 
Michael Radelut
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Just took this photo.
The quality isn't very good, the survival instincts certainly are.
mullein.JPG
[Thumbnail for mullein.JPG]
 
                                      
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Location: Joseph, Oregon
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yes, the mullein is a very useful plant indeed.  my favorite application is production of seed for wintering birds.  the huge seed heads, somtimes 3' or more tall likely contain thousands of seeds; these are held above the snowpack, so that during the coldest part of the winter, a reliable free source of food is available for wildlife.  i have very fold memories of woodpeckers and chickadees working the same plants for months during january and february.  it seems that several insect species eat the seeds as well.  i recall a small beetle in the seedheads, likely providing additional forage for the wild birds.

as mentioned, mullein is valuable as a nurse crop for target seed recruitment.  in the spring, seedlings (now entering their second growing season), can be dug and if placed on 2' centers will provide a complete canopy coverage within a month or so for shading out weed species (thistles) or providing shade for seedlings that you want.  when the target species are in the second or third leaf stage or about 1" tall, simply strip off the lower leaves of the (now bolting) mullein so that light enters the target understory.  i am currently using them to nurse foxglove (digitalis), also a biennial.


btw, Nathan, you can strip off the lower leaves of your mullein so that the rosemary will get light.  these leaves get powdery mildew? easily and should be removed for good cultural practices anyway.

enjoy your mulleins!
brian.
 
Alison Thomas
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Just as I was about to transplant all my little mullein seedlings to form a 'garden' around our composting loo, I read this ....

"Mullein tea is made from the leaves of a 1st-year plant and is considered a good cough suppressant. A similar tea can be made from the root after cleaning, peeling, and dicing. Although the leaves feel soft and fuzzy they do not make good "wild" toilet paper as the small hairs can get stuck in your skin which is very uncomfortable."
http://www.foragingtexas.com/2006/12/mullien.html

So, user beware!  I've changed my plans!

 
Dave Bennett
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I found this interesting........
http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/common_mullein.htm

I am thinking it is good for helping to repair very poor soil but I would never allow it to even get close to flowering.  Finding it sounds pretty easy in areas with dry soil and/or very poor soil. 
 
ronie dee
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
Just as I was about to transplant all my little mullein seedlings to form a 'garden' around our composting loo, I read this ....

"Mullein tea is made from the leaves of a 1st-year plant and is considered a good cough suppressant. A similar tea can be made from the root after cleaning, peeling, and dicing. Although the leaves feel soft and fuzzy they do not make good "wild" toilet paper as the small hairs can get stuck in your skin which is very uncomfortable."
http://www.foragingtexas.com/2006/12/mullien.html

So, user beware!  I've changed my plans!




I know this moves off subject, so what plant to plant near the outhouse or loo, instead of Mullein? Dock? or Milkweed maybe??
 
Alison Thomas
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Nice link Dave Bennett.

And ronie, this might be of interest - another post on what to grow for the composting toilet 'garden'.
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=4751.0
 
paul wheaton
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This is the first I have heard of it being an irritant.

Anybody experienced that?

 
christine lawson
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  Yes, those fine hairs can be very irritating, it won't hurt the average gardener's hands, tough as they are, but more delicate areas...I've heard stories. So it's best to strain the tea of the leaves, too, before drinking.

  My mullein story : Once upon a time, still living in the city, and a friend and I were pouring over some old Herbal, fascinated by our first glimpses into that world. She'd had an ongoing sinus issue for years, after working a long time in a "sick building", and living in a highrise. We read that mullein helps the breathing.
  Well. It being dead of a Canadian winter, snow two feet on the ground did not deter that girl. Out she went into the snow in a nearby greenspace, and searched til she found second year spikes showing. Then she dug through the snow pack till she found a few 1st year rosettes, which she brought home. Chopped up the leaves, put in a bowl, poured boiling water over, and a towel over her head, and steamed...immediately she could breathe, and after a a week or so of daily steams, she had cured a longstanding problem no doctor had helped.
  Needless to say, we were sold, and never looked back.

 
 
Irene Kightley
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Good story Christine. I often use the leaves in vapour at the end of a cold, there's nothing like them for really clearing the air passages.

Mullens (Or your spelling Mulleins) are growing well here this year in the drought.

 
paul wheaton
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From a friend via email on this topic:

Mullein has hair small enough to irritate some skin. I like using
jerusalem sage as a better tp plant.


 
ronie dee
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
And ronie, this might be of interest - another post on what to grow for the composting toilet 'garden'.
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=4751.0


Thanks, I don't know how that thread got by me.

I noticed Mullein a long time ago and figured it could be a TP substitute....I tried it once with no problems. (Maybe I just got lucky.)

Just want to mention that folks should be very aware of poison ivy, oak, sumach and other rash causation plants when reaching for butt wipe -  one good poison ivy rash on the ass could make one wish they'd used the mullein and got a few hairs up their butt. }

As a side note: I didn't read the whole thread on the TP topic yet, but(t) I noticed that nobody had mentioned recycling paper as a butt wipe... The stories of the sears catalog are not a joke, but(t) something that us poor country folks knew very well fifty + some odd years ago.

I wonder about soaking scavenged cut strips of newspaper in a solution of some kind and then dry and hang near the loo for TP substitute...?
 
Dave Bennett
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I am not sure if this will work but...
Sasa Palmatta Bamboo has gigantic leaves and is hardy to zone 6+.
 
                              
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Recently at a wild edibles workshop when we came across some mullein, the instructor said it is a dynamic accumulator, great expectorant when smoked, and the dry stem is hard enough to use as a fire drill. I have some drying to smoke now will let you know.  There is a quarry near my house covered in mullein so it must be able to digest nutrients out of rock and make them available for other plants.  One is one its second year near my compost and i use the lower leaves to wipe off my tools then throw them in the compost. 

I wipe with old newspapers.
Cheers
 
Brenda Groth
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mullien is also a great compost plant, or mulch plant, you can grow to chop and drop.
 
Alison Thomas
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But you know that it's such a great architectural plant, shooting up like a firework through my flower borders, and such a lovely touchable plant in all the cracks along the edge of our path that I just can't bear to grow it on purpose to just rip it out.  I know I'm daft and I know that I have left so many to flower this year (and therefore seed) that I'm sure all these great ideas will be put into action next year, including ripping them out to help others 
 
                                
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another use for the dried mullein stalks, reputedly, is a replacement for candle wicking.  My chickens eat all parts of the plant.  Birds perch on it, eat the seeds, sing the plants awake.  Mary Summer Rain says the seeds are edible for people too.  But maybe a lot of work to collect enough.  Enjoyable and pretty too.
 
paul wheaton
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I have taken lots of video and pictures of mullein in the last few days. 

I would like to try an experiment. 

Take a video with a mullein plant and a person talking about mullein.  Maybe even a kid saying "according to wikipedia ..."  or "mullein builds soil in places where there is no soil" or whatever.  The video needs to be 10 to 30 seconds long, and you need to send me a picture of a piece of paper that says "I give paul wheaton global commercial rights to use this video about mullein." and is signed.  It must be a photo of a written document because youtube will want proof.  And if the document says anything more then youtube will get weird.

If I get something like five videos like this, each expressing some small bit, that will be great.  You can even send three or four small bits.

And be sure to give me your name and location.

Anybody wanna play?
 
                                      
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keralee wrote:
Mary Summer Rain says the seeds are edible for people too.  But maybe a lot of work to collect enough.  Enjoyable and pretty too.

warning: do not eat mullein seeds!  apparently they contain large amounts of rotenone!  i found the following in "Edible and medicinal plants of the west" by gregory L. tilford (1997): WARNING: Although no adverse side effects have been noted with mullein, it contains coumarin and rotenone, two substances that may prove toxic if ingested in large enough quantities.  the seeds should not be consumed under any circumstances.  and in the preceding paragraph:  "the seeds were used by the american indians as a paralytic fish poison, as they contain a considerable amount of rotenone".  i wonder if maybe wild birds are using the seeds as a parasite purgative?  for us though, likely not worth the liver stress...instead, use the rumex seed growing next to the mullein, dry, and grind into your bread flour or morning porridge.
 
paul wheaton
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I drove by some mullein that was growing out of solid rock.  I would have liked to have taken a picture, but it was a freeway with all sorts of weird construction.

 
Gordon Hogenson
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Wow, lots of great info on this thread.  I also found out that mullein is believed to accumulate potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and iron.

When I first uploaded my video from my camera, I had a 600+ MB AVI file on my PC. I then downloaded a free program called VirtualDub from http://www.divx-digest.com/articles/cutavi.html -- and that page also had instructions on how to break up my 600 MB AVI file into manageable chunks (as well as pick and choose which bits seemed to be the most interesting).  I ended up with about six 25 MB excerpts, smaller AVI files.

At first when I was going to send the videos to Paul, I realized that yahoo doesn't let you attach anything larger than 25 MB. Only one of my files was less than 25 MB! 

My wife let me know how to send large files.  If you go to send6.com, and create the free type of account, you can send up to 250MB.  (If you don't create an account you can only send 50 MB. )
 
Gordon Hogenson
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This mullein plant is not planted by us. I think it came in with some compost we had delivered a few years ago to start our vegetable garden.  We welcomed it!  It's growing in rich garden soil normally reserved for our veggies.

Mullein 004.jpg
[Thumbnail for Mullein 004.jpg]
 
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