Samstag, 4. August 2012

Plant of the Day (August 4th, 2012) - Verbascum speciosum Schrad.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Verbascum speciosum Schrad. from the Scrophulariaceae family. In German, this species is known as “Pracht-Königskerze” (magnificent mullein) and the common English name is “showy mullein”. As relatively young part of the German Flora, there are not so many informations in German literature but more on that later.

V. speciosum - habitus

As the name suggest, V. speciosum is a handsome and showy plant, which can reach heights between 60 and 230 metres (1.9 to 7.6 feet). The strong stalk grows upright and is only branched in the upper regions. Thereby, the plant looks a little bit like a candlestick. The whole stalk is covered with smooth, star-shaped hairs.

V. speciosum - stalk & leaves

The leaves are also hairy, what gives them a grey-green colour. They have a simple margin, which is not serrated or indented in any manner. However, the leaves in the upper region of the plant embrace the stalk nearly, forming some small “auricles”. All leaves have small humps at their nodes.

V. speciosum - a single leaf

All in all, the leaves were arranged in such a way, that they form a kind of funnel. In this way, the plant is able to guide rainwater to the roots.

V. nigrum - inflorescence

The inflorescences are terminal racemes with many flowers. These flowers are wheel-shaped and between 10 and 26 millimetres in diameter. The petals are yellow and all five stamens are fleecy haired. Flowering time is between June and July. The ripe fruit is a capsule with many seeds inside.

V. speciosum - flower with the woolly stamens

V. speciosum is native to South-East Europe but loose stocks can be found also in Germany and other Parts of Europe as neophyte today. It prefers warm, sunny to semi-shady places. So it can be found on clearings, dry meadows or the edges of forests. In its new areas, V. speciosum grows on ruderal wastelands and at roadsides or railway tracks.

The spread of V. nigrum is a relatively recent phenomenon and was often the subject of researches during the last years. Thereby, there are only a few informations about its growing conditions, area of distribution and so on.

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