Collected on July 21, 1904, this specimen was found by Otto Jennings (a former curator of botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History) in Cameron County, Pennsylvania. Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a weedy species from Eurasia and is now common in roadsides and disturbed fields across the United States.
When you know to look for it, it is hard to miss at up to 6 feet tall with bright yellow flowers and velvety leaves. It was introduced at least 230 years ago, cultivated by early European colonists for use as a fish poison (the seeds contain several compounds deadly to fish).
Throughout history, the plant has had many medicinal uses—one Greek botanist recommended it for pulmonary diseases over 2,000 years ago. It can be found in herbal products for this purpose, but many of these products have not yet been tested for safety or effectiveness.
Botanists at Carnegie Museum of Natural History share pieces of the herbarium’s historical hidden collection on the dates they were discovered or collected. Check back for more!