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Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein

Summary

Not a terribly interesting plant unless you are an ancient Roman with an abscess.

Blog Entries

Read more about Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein, in these blog entries (most recent first);
How tall does a Verbascum have to be to reach a record height?

Family

Scrophulariaceae

Meaning of the Name

Verbascum
Possibly from the Latin ‘ver’, ‘spring’ and ‘barbatus’, ‘beard’ from the plant’s hairy stamens.
 
olympicum
Strictly, ‘from Mount Olympus’ but ‘Olympus’ may also translate as ‘heaven’ and so the plant may be a gift from the gods.

Common Names and Synonyms

Greek mullein, donkey's ears, bunny's ears, velvet plant

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

It contains a narcotic but its exact nature is not defined.

Not harmful to humans to any extent but it is said to particularly affect fish.

In American Medicinal Plants, Charles F. Millspaugh lists the effects of ingestion of a very large quantity, 30 to 40 ounces, of a tincture made from Mullein. Curiously, many of the symptoms are said to occur only on the left side. Its narcotic action is said to disappear after two hours.

 
Verbascum Southern Charm

Verbascum 'Southern Charm' - a relative of
Verbascum olympicum

Incidents

No reported incidents of human poisoning but it is reported to have been used by poachers and in the TV series, Bushcraft, Ray Mears joined a tribe on the Amazon who fish by putting Verbascum leaves in the river to make the fish sleepy.

Folklore and Facts

According to Pliny the Elder, it cures superficial abscess in a poultice made of pounded root, sprinkled in wine and wrapped in leaves but only if the patient fasts and the poultice is applied by a naked maiden who has also been fasting. The maiden must say ‘Apollo tells us that plague cannot grow more fiery in a patient if a naked maiden quench the fire’.

Mandragora is an alternative treatment for abscesses but does not require the involvement of a naked maiden so may not have been as popular.

Verbascum was grown in monastery gardens to keep out the devil. In the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden it was grown by the fence in the corner near the cannabis. Was that to try to keep out the little devils who might be tempted to climb over the fence to reach the cannabis?

IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.

 

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Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree