Almost one of the first things I wrote in this blog was about my lack of gardening ability and the fact that I had only, ever, had one day’s gardening-related tuition. The key point the tutor made on that day was that plants want to grow and it is up to the gardener to do nothing to stop them.
A few weeks ago someone wrote to say that she had a Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein, that had reached almost 7ft high and she wondered if this were a record. A few quick enquiries and I had to disappoint her by saying that several people had said they had grown plants higher than that.
Last week, she emailed, again, to say that the plant had now reached 9ft 7in (2.9m) and was still producing flowers. I was still not able to say if this achieves any sort of record height but, when she sent a picture, I was fairly sure this would be the tallest Greek mullein growing in an awkward place.
It is quite remarkable that a seed, blown by the wind or, perhaps, dropped by a bird, should decide that the ideal place to grow should be in the small gap at the edge of a patio slab. That’s why I began this piece with that story about plants wanting to grow.
Verbascum is one of those genera where the claim to be a poisonous plant is suspect. It does not appear on the Horticultural Trades Association list of potentially harmful plants. In fact, Liz Dauncey includes Verbascum bombyciferum, giant silver mullein, in her list of plants that are ‘safe’ for children to grow. Wink and van Wyk, in Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World, don’t mention it at all and the only reference in the International Poisonous Plants Checklist is to a case report of contact dermatitis.
This means that its reputation as a narcotic is unproven but, as I say on the plant page in the A to Z section, it has been said to be used to make fish easier to catch both in the past and, even today, in parts of South America.
You can send comments via the contact page but please be sure to say what blog entry you are commenting on.