Mullein Lookalikes: How to Identify Them

Mullein Lookalikes: How to Identify Them

Mullein Lookalikes: What You Need to Know

Mullein, also known as Verbascum thapsus, is a versatile and valuable plant known for its many uses. From medicinal properties to crafting materials, mullein is a favorite among foragers and survivalists alike.

However, when out in the wild, it’s essential to know how to properly identify mullein. While mullein has distinct characteristics, there are several plants that may look similar to the untrained eye.

In this article, we will explore eight mullein lookalikes to help you recognize them while foraging or surviving in the wilderness.

1. Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

Lamb’s ear is a perennial plant that features dense, silver-gray foliage resembling the soft texture of a lamb’s ear. While it shares some similarities with mullein, such as the leaf shape and silvery color, there are a few key differences to look out for:

  • Lamb’s ear has densely packed leaves, while mullein leaves are more spread out.
  • Lamb’s ear does not have a tall flower spike like mullein.
  • When rubbed, lamb’s ear leaves have a distinct velvety texture, while mullein leaves are rough and hairy.

Despite these differences, it’s always important to stay cautious and confirm the plant’s identification through further research or consulting an expert.

2. Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus var. giganteum)

Great mullein is a close relative of mullein, often found growing in similar habitats. It shares many similarities with mullein, including overall leaf shape and the presence of a tall flower spike. However, there are a few distinguishing features to help differentiate between the two:

  • Great mullein has larger leaves compared to common mullein.
  • The flower spikes of great mullein are thicker and denser than those of common mullein.
  • The flowers of great mullein are typically a deeper yellow color compared to the pale yellow flowers of common mullein.

Keep in mind that these differences may vary depending on the specific variety and local environment.

3. Mullein Foxglove (Verbascum thapsiforme)

Mullein foxglove, also known as woolly mullein or orange mullein, is another plant that closely resembles mullein. While its overall appearance is similar, there are some characteristics to help you differentiate between the two:

  • Mullein foxglove has smaller leaves compared to common mullein.
  • The flower spikes of mullein foxglove are shorter and less densely packed than common mullein.
  • Mullein foxglove flowers are typically orange or reddish in color.
  • Unlike mullein, the leaves and stems of mullein foxglove have a woolly texture.

As with any plant, it’s crucial to exercise caution and double-check your identification before using it for any purpose.

4. Teasel (Dipsacus spp.)

Teasel is a prickly plant known for its distinctive tall flower heads. While it may share some similarities with mullein, it has distinct features that set it apart:

  • Teasel has long, serrated leaves that appear more jagged compared to the rounded edges of mullein leaves.
  • The flower heads of teasel are spiky and tightly packed, while mullein flower spikes are more open.
  • Teasel flowers are typically purple or pinkish in color.
  • Like mullein, teasel leaves have a rough texture but lack the dense hairiness found on mullein leaves.

Keep in mind that teasel is a beneficial plant in its own right, with various uses ranging from fiber production to attracting wildlife.

5. Spotted Mullein (Verbascum speciosum)

Spotted mullein, also known as showy mullein or purple mullein, is an eye-catching plant that closely resembles mullein. Here are some key features to help differentiate between the two:

  • Spotted mullein has broader and more rounded leaves compared to common mullein.
  • The flowers of spotted mullein are bright reddish-purple, while mullein flowers are typically yellow.
  • Spotted mullein has distinctive reddish-purple spots on its leaves, a characteristic absent in mullein.
  • While both plants have tall flower spikes, the overall appearance and density of the spikes may differ.

Remember to gather further information or seek expert advice if you are uncertain about plant identification.

6. Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane is a perennial herb with a multitude of medicinal uses. While it may not resemble mullein as closely as some other plants on this list, there are still a few similarities to be aware of:

  • Elecampane has large, broad leaves that may resemble the shape of mullein leaves.
  • Both plants can reach impressive heights, with elecampane growing up to five feet tall.
  • Elecampane has yellow flowers similar to mullein, although the shape and arrangement differ.
  • The overall leaf structure and plant form of elecampane are different from mullein.

As always, it’s important to exercise caution and confirm identification through multiple reliable sources.

7. White Mullein (Verbascum lychnitis)

White mullein, also known as white-flowered mullein, is another close relative of common mullein. While its name suggests a distinct difference in flower color, other features may still lead to confusion:

  • White mullein has similar overall leaf shape and arrangement as common mullein.
  • The flower spikes of white mullein are shorter and less densely packed compared to common mullein.
  • White mullein flowers are creamy white or pale yellow in color, differing from the bright yellow flowers of common mullein.
  • Despite these differences, careful examination and comparison are necessary for accurate identification.

8. Imperial Mullein (Verbascum × imperialis)

Imperial mullein, also known as hybrid mullein or garden mullein, is a cultivated variety that may escape into the wild. While not native, it can still be mistaken for common mullein:

  • The overall form and leaf shape of imperial mullein resemble common mullein.
  • Both plants have tall flower spikes, although the density and size of the flowers may differ.
  • Imperial mullein flowers come in various colors, including shades of pink, purple, and white.
  • Again, careful observation and cross-referencing with reliable sources are crucial for accurate identification.

Final Thoughts

While mullein has distinct characteristics, it’s essential to be aware of other plants that may resemble it. These lookalikes can vary in appearance and may be found in similar habitats, so it’s crucial to take the time to observe and compare. Remember, accurate identification is key to ensure your safety and the proper utilization of plants for survival or other purposes.

As always, exercise caution and consult multiple reliable sources before relying on any plant for medicinal or survival uses.

My 2 Cents

When it comes to identifying plants, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Pay close attention to the distinguishing characteristics, such as leaf shape, flower spikes, and color, to differentiate between mullein and its lookalikes. Remember, practice makes perfect, so hone your identification skills by exploring different plant species in your area. Happy foraging and stay safe out there!