Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mullein vs Green Gentian by Irene Shonle

This year, we're seeing a lot of Green Gentian (Frasera speciosa, also known as Monument Plant) blooming.    This spectacular plant is monocarpic, meaning that it blooms once and then dies, much like a Century Plant (Agave).  It was formerly thought to be a biennial, but research (much of it done by Dr. Inouye at Rocky Mtn Biological Laboratory) has proved otherwise. It will often sit as a rosette for 20-80 years before blooming, and once it reaches blooming size, it waits for an environmental cue in order to synch with other plants (this allows for cross-pollination).   It seems as though this year, we're having a modest mass flowering (some years are much greater, apparently there was an unbelievable flowering in the Crested Butte area in 2003).  For more on this interesting plant, see this article from the Montana Native Plant Society.
Green Gentian (Frasera speciosa)

I point this out because I am worried that people are confusing this cool plant with the Colorado  list C noxious weed, Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).   I don't want people to pull the wrong thing by mistake; several people who have come into my office have almost done so.

Here's how you tell them apart:
Mullein has fuzzy leaves, Green Gentian's leaves are smooth.
Mullein has yellow flowers, Green Gentian's flowers are a greenish white.

Pictures of Green Gentian:

Pictures of Mullein:

The last picture on this post on mullein has a side-by-side comparison of the rosettes of Mullein and Green Gentian:

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