Several species of mullein are currently flowering in the Botanical Garden. The Aramaic word for mullein means ‘candle’, because its pleasant yellow flowers are borne on high stems, reminiscent of candelabra. The flowers generally open for only a single day and wilt shortly after pollination (or after being touched).  The mullein flowers are pollinated by bees. Many species of mullein are extremely 'hairy', which can cause irritation of the eyes and skin, for which reason, perhaps, their name in Arabic means “causing blindness”.  Another species of mullein is called “Quakers’ blusher” in America, because young Quaker girls, forbidden to wear makeup, used to use the flower to irritate the skin of their cheeks into producing a reddish blush.

There are 16 species of mullein in Israel. In our garden, about a month ago, the species called in Hebrew “horizontal mullein” (Verbascum levanticum) began to flower. This is a near-endangered species, growing only on the Carmel. It also grows in Cyprus, attesting, together with a number of other species of similar distribution, to the biogeographical link between these two sites.  The pedicels (the short stem that attaches single flowers to the inflorescence) are horizontal, at a right-angle to the stem, from which derives its Hebrew name. During our attempt to photograph it, it became clear that, despite the description regarding other of its species, its flowers in fact open only towards evening, making the flowers look wrinkled and “tired” in the photograph – they had been there since yesterday…  

Several days later, the Verbascum berytheum also began to flower. This is an endangered species endemic to loam soil in the coastal plain in Israel and Lebanon, and suffering from constant loss of habitat due to agriculture and construction. You can see it in the loam soil plants’ section of the garden.

A pleasant surprise is the flowering – for the first time in our botanical garden – of the Galilee mullein (Verbascum galilaeum), also an endangered species which grows in heavy soil near banks of water bodies. In our garden it grows on the edge of the big pool in the water plants’ section of the garden. Its flowers are very large (up to 5 cm in diameter) and impressive. In few weeks the Scallop-Leaved Mullein will begin to flower in different areas of the Botanical Garden. This is a widespread species, found in many parts of Israel. It flowers throughout the summer and also for part of the autumn.          

Photo: Gavri Sion

Verbascum berytheum, Photo: Gavri Sion

Photo: Gavri Sion

Verbascum galilaeum, Photo: Gavri Sion