MicroCT of Mullein

Image of the Month: October 2014

Alien Plant – Mullein

Up close this plant looks like something out a of science fiction movie. This plant is actually found throughout the United States and is called Common Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus L.). The above images are of the flower stalk at the top of the plant. The plant has broad fuzzy leaves, a single flower stalk, and can reach a total height of 7 feet. It was first introduced to the United States during the mid-1700’s where it was used as a fish poison in Virginia1. Eventually, it was introduced through the U.S. and spread to the Pacific coast. The likely cause of Mulleins extensive range was due to its medicinal properties.

The medicinal properties of the plant vary but European settlers used it as a remedy for coughs and diarrhea when made into a tea. Also, when smoked, it is a stimulant for the lungs. Other uses included a cure for burns, rashes, earaches, and rheumatism2.

Mullein is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to reach full maturity and produce the flower stalk. Around 100,000 to 180,000 seeds are usually produced by the plant and the seeds can remain active for over 100 years1. Since Mullein is considered an invasive species and the seeds make it easy for Mullein to spread, it is really hard to eradicate the plant. If a nuisance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends using a weevil, mullein moth, or hand pulling as solutions to removing the plant from fields1.

To visualize the flower stalk in more detail, below is a video created in CTVox.

Next, time you are driving down the road where there are vast fields, look for this plant. It will likely be on the roadside or poking out of soybean fields. It is a rather impressive plant both in the macro and micro scale!

References:

1.       https://www.nps.gov/plants/ALIEN/fact/veth1.htm
2.       http://oak.ppws.vt.edu/~flessner/weedguide/vesth.htm

Scan Specifications:

System
SkyScan 1173 Micro-CT

Voltage
40kV

Current
200µA

Pixel Size
26.41um

Rotation Step:
0.3

Scan Time
01:49:03

Software
NRecon, DataViewer, CTvox

Location
Micro Photonics Imaging Laboratory, Allentown, PA

Courtesy of
Brandon Walters, Micro Photonics, Laboratory Manager

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