Friday, 15 July 2011

Mullein on the Railway Line

Usually in hot weather we like to take the dogs to the beach, or along a river, or to a lake for their daily strolls. They love nothing better than splashing about and swimming. The other day however, I reapplied their Spot On after finding a few ticks attached to them, so swimming was out, much to their annoyance.
Instead we took them through the fields and along the disused railway close to Roudsea Wood, opposite Greenodd, just a few miles away from where we live in Ulverston.
It was a scorching day and, in the absence of water to play in, the dogs found long grass to cool them off.
It didn't stop either of them from dashing about after a ball and playing at rounding each other up:
actually it is Whisper who is really into the stalking game!
Along what I think is an old disused railway track we found some fabulous big Mullein plants.
Their impressive spikes of yellow flowers are at their best at this time of year and the old stems from last year are still standing tall and are well dried out.
My good friend Hugh Woods tells me that the plant was known as "Poor Man's Torch" or "Candle-Wick" due to the fact that a dried stems of the flower spike burn extremely well. It has thick hairy leaves and apparently is known as "Cowboy's Toilet Paper" in the Western United States!
I know that Mullein has been an extremely useful plant in the past in medicine and also that the flowers can be used to make yellow and green dyes. I didn't know that the seeds have been used to produce a poison for fishing!

The Wikipedia entry says...
Great Mullein has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin, throat and breathing ailments. It has long had a medicinal reputation, especially as an astringent and emollient, as it contains mucilage, several saponinscoumarin and glycosidesDioscorides recommended it for diseases of the lung and it is now widely available in health and herbal stores. Non-medical uses have included dyeing and making torches.

So now we know where to go next time we have a cough! Hugh has given us one of these plants as a gift and we're hoping to harvest plenty of seeds from it. They only grow where the seeds can germinate on bare ground and so an old railway track suits them very well.

When we'd had enough of the baking heat of the open country, we retreated to the cooling depths of the woodland and enjoyed a little peace in the company of trees.

1 comment:

Claire the Shepherdess said...

This is fascinating! I shall definitely be trying mullein dye for my wool, and also will give the candle idea a go! I think I have a good 500 mulleins on my property right now, probably more than that. I have been removing them from my flower beds because they shade out the other plants so much, but I have loads in the meadow areas, so this was a very interesting post and I'll have to report on the dye and the candle efforts!