I Dig Mullein!

Yesterday, I went hunting the wild Mullein (verbascum thapsus).  I was disappointed, though, as I found only two plants in the woods behind my house (here in the wilds of Cincinnati, Ohio).   Being a good Herbalist, I know that one of the most important rules of wildcrating (or harvesting wild plants for later therapeutic or food uses) is to only take 20% or less of that type of plant in the area.   So, I tried to patient.

I called a friend who had just bought a beautiful piece of property.   Part of the hillside had obviously been dug up at one point in time.  Mullein is a stubborn plant; it grows in some of the toughest terrain, usually rocky and disturbed.  Luckily my friend obliged my wily wild woman notions.  Here’s a picture of the mullein-laden hillside:

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The mullein plant at the bottom of the picture was probably the most perfect one I have ever seen.  It was so beautiful!  I almost couldn’t bear to harvest it, but it was in perfect shape.  I also figured that because it was so large, I could harvest less.  I talked to the plant first, told it that I wanted to work with it for health and wellness, and gave gratitude for its life and energy.  I feel like it’s so important to be this conscious of what the plant is giving up for me.

Mullein is such an amazing plant, with its fuzzy leaves like wool or lamb’s ears (the animal’s or the plant).  In the spiritual work I’ve done talking to the plant, I have learned that it can help to comfort us, like a warm, soft blanket.  It also has a gorgeous rosette in its center.  Here’s the one I harvested:

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Then, I ventured into the woods for some exploring.  The first thing I noticed was an old truck that had been abandoned there a long time ago.  It is so amazing how Mother Nature takes over if left to her own devices.  There was some carpet in the bed of the truck.  It was covered in moss, jewelweed, and virginia creeper.

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Speaking of Mother Nature’s power, she really does seem to know best.  At least that’s my belief.  (Okay, little rant coming, sorry.)  I know there’s this current trend of groups of people getting together and pulling mass quantities of ‘weeds’ to keep them from crowding out native plants.  However, what I have noticed is, not only are those ‘weeds’ (which are often edible and medicinal) left to rot, other ‘weeds’ pop up in their place.  This seems to be the case with honeysuckle and garlic mustard around here.  They’re both great plants and have been replaced with snakeroot.  The only information I can find about snakeroot is that it is poisonous and killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother after she drank milk from a cow who had eaten snakeroot.  Here’s what Snakeroot looks like:

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Unfortunately, it looks a lot like Stinging Nettle.  Don’t be fooled, though, stinging nettle has prickly hairs covering the stem that cause that sting, and Snakeroot doesn’t.

The woods are so breathtaking up there!  It is very lush, green, and moist.  I felt like I was back in the Pacific Northwest.

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I love discovering new places.  I felt like an explorer.  It was this surge of feelings, about being in unfamiliar, uncharted territory.  There’s the excitement of the newness, the surprises waiting at every next step.  Then there’s the nervous excitement of not knowing where I am going and hoping I can find my way back.  I did have a slightly dramatic moment where I worried I wasn’t going back the right way.  I had a traumatic memory of getting lost in the woods overnight several years ago.  (Luckily, I know more about plants, now!)  There was a moment where I asked the spirits for help.  While scary, it was somewhat relieving, to put my trust in something bigger than myself.

There was something so comforting for me in seeing the jewelweed reappear and the deer tracks.  I guess in many ways, that deciduous forest is and always will be home.  The plants and woodland spirits are my friends and guardians.  I feel safer there than many other places.

So I trusted, and soon was led back on the right path.  I found another treasure when I got back, an old mullein stalk with the seed pods still attached (it’s laying on top of a thistle plant):

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After I picked it up, I noticed deer tracks under where it had been laying.  I felt completely at one with everything, knowing the deer had been right where I was standing, probably nibbling on the same plants.

I shook the seed pods to distribute mullein seeds over the hillside, to replace what I had taken.  I took the stalk home to decorate my front porch and spread some more seeds.  There was another set of seed pods and I took those to give them a home on my altar in the healing room to add to the plant spirit energy.

When I came home, I rinsed some of the mud off the plant, and chopped the roots and some of the leaves, all the while feeling so much gratitude for all the plant world gives so freely.  Then, I put them in a jar and covered them with alcohol.  I hung the rest of the leaves to dry for later use in my herbal practice.  Now I just have to wait patiently.

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It’s amazing how much gratitude I feel every time I go to and return from the woods.  I know my heart is there and those trips are my spiritual practice.

Green Blessings Until the Next Adventure!

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    James Gold said,

    Sounds like you had an awesome trip! Nothing like the (re)connection of just being in a largely untouched natural place. Cant wait to hear how your Mullein brew turns out!


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