Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Verbascum Bloom Day
Verbascum bombyciferum, known as Silver mullein and often sold as Arctic Summer turns out to be well worth giving a try. I picked up this plant a year ago at the Target garden center near me. This plant is variously described as a biennial or perennial; I guess time will tell now that it is blooming. The first-to-emerge flower spike is now about 8 feet tall, and being followed by more spikes as time goes on. On a recent visit to San Francisco I saw cut spikes for sale at a flower stall and was surprised since, hey, I never was aware of verbascum flowers before. Now that I am, I think it would be outstanding to have enough garden space for a dense planting of these.
Lots of honeybees visit the blossoms and you can see by the color of pollen on the bees' legs it seems to be the pollen from the verbascum.
Suspended between the tallest flower spikes is a great spot for the web and shelter of a labyrinth spider, Metepeira sp. Hopefully you can see from the photo the typical labyrinth spider web arrangement: the orb web is similar but maybe smaller than that of other orb web weavers and how the little spider shelter or retreat is a mess of silk and plant debris positioned behind and toward the bottom half of the orb web.
Before flowering, the verbascum is a 3 foot or so wide rosette of large silvery leaves. As the plant blooms, the rosette enlongates into a pyramid shaped spire of leaves and multiple inflorescences, reaching 8 feet and growing.