Verbascum virgatum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaScrophulariaceaeVerbascumVerbascum virgatum


A biennial herb, naturalised on dry banks, walls, field margins, rough grassland, pastures and sheltered sea-cliffs in S.W. England; elsewhere a casual of waste ground, rubbish tips, re-seeded road verges, sand-pits, tracks and disturbed coastal dunes. It reproduces by seed, easily colonising open habitats, but does not survive much competition. Lowland.



World Distribution

A Suboceanic Southern-temperate species.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.2

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.8

Annual Precipitation (mm): 870

Life form information

Height (cm): 100

Perennation - primary

Biennial, including monocarpic perennials

Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 339

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 13

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 3

Atlas Change Index: 0.35

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Verbascum virgatum Stokes

Twiggy mullein

Status: scarce


This plant is probably native in some parts of south­west England, In Cornwall and Devon it is recorded from dry banks, old walls and pastures; it has also been reported from sheltered sea-cliffs. On the Lizard Peninsula, it grows on a steep, rocky, roughly grazed field with many small annuals including the nationally rare Polycarpon tetraphyllum. It is now seldom seen in gardens, but when cultivated its abundant production of seeds allows it to escape with ease. It occurs as a casual on waste ground, rubbish tips, re-seeded roadside verges, disused railways, forest tracks, disused sandpits inland and disturbed dunes by the sea. It will grow in most soil types. 

V. virgatum is a biennial, reproducing entirely by seed, which is very small and easily wind-dispersed. This plant cannot survive much competition and often disappears from a site when lack of management allows coarse grassland or scrub to colonise.

V. virgatum is endemic to western Europe, from the Azores, Spain and Portugal to Britain. It is doubtfully native in Italy. The species reaches its northern limit in Britain.

The hybrid between V. virgatum and V. thapsus has been recorded as a casual in Warwickshire (State 1991).


V. A. Johnstone

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (222a)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.