By Sherry Berrin
Common Mullein, also known as Verbascum thapsus, is a species of mullein native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia. Here in the west, it is considered to be a weed and is usually found in open areas where the ground has been disturbed. You will often see it in fields, roadsides, streamsides, gardens, and forest openings. Mullein is usually recognized by its tall flower spikes, which can be 10 feet tall. Mullein produce large numbers of seeds--one mullein plant may make over 100,000 seeds in a year! Seeds can survive almost any conditions and can last up to 100 years. The seeds will lay in the soil, waiting until plants around them die or are removed.
As a land steward for the Deschutes Land Trust, a big part of my job involves invasive weed removal. Over the last few years, I've pulled weeds from all of our Preserves and many of our other protected lands. But last week's weed removal project was a little bit different. Using an inflatable kayak, float tubes, and waders, I, along with two adventurous volunteers, paddled out to the small island in Duckett Pond at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve to remove mullein and bull thistle.
I’ve been watching the mullein bloom on this little island from the banks of Duckett Pond for the last couple of years, knowing that eventually the mullein would start to take over. This year I was determined to do something about it. With mission Mullein Eradication as my goal, I recruited neighbors Kristan and Scott Collins to help in my adventure.
On a hot Friday afternoon, we inflated our kayaks, climbed into our pond-worthy vessels and paddled across the waters to the island. It was quite a treat to see the pond from the low view the kayak offered. I heard that a river otter had been spotted in the pond earlier in the day and I was hopeful that we might catch a glimpse of this playful critter. Alas, no such luck that afternoon.
Once we reached the island, we were a bit shocked by the density of mullein we found, but quickly set about clipping off seed heads and pulling the first year rosettes. Once mullein has flowered, it is important to clip and bag the seed heads, as pulling the plants and leaving them on the ground just provides more seeds for the next year. The kayak proved to be an excellent way to carry the bags of clipped weeds off the island, and after several trips the island was clear. I can’t wait for next August when I return for another weed pull in Duckett Pond!