Despite spending much of my free time out in the countryside observing nature for as long as I can remember I recently stumbled across a new find in the form of a plant I’d never seen before.
Whilst it isn’t rare it is most exotic-looking and my first thought when I saw it was that this plant had blown in as a seed from a nearby garden. After some research I managed to identify the plant as a mullein. Whilst there are a number of different mulleins in the UK it seems from my research that the plant I found was the largest (and seemingly commonest) of the group – known as Great Mullein.
Great or Common Mullein, latin name Verbascum thapsus, is an impressive plant that can reach over 6 feet in height with rosettes of large leaves each one cloaked in bristly white hairs giving it a Mediterranean look and the appearance of greyish foliage thanks to the combination of the white hairs on the green leaves.
Just as interestingly while trying to get a number of photos of the plant to help me identify it I stumbled across a number of large, brightly-coloured caterpillars feeding on the plant.
The combination of a minty green background together with the yellow and black spots gives it a most attractive and indeed impressive appearance. It turns out that these are the caterpillars of the mullein moth though I was somewhat disappointed that the adult moth itself is far less impressive in appearance that the larvae.
If you’re out and about in the late spring and early summer keep an eye out for mullein which thanks to it’s size and shape is easy to identify – and watch for caterpillars feeding on it.