Mullein: 4 Fire Making Tools in 1 Plant

Mullein in Winter

Mullein in Winter

Mullein is often referred to by botanists as “Common Mullein”. Well let me tell you up front – there is NOTHING common about this amazing plant. As a BushCrafter & Survivalist, the study of plants should be a part of your outdoor regular regimen. Besides wonderful foods and medicines, plants can provide an outdoors man with incredible tools as well. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a plant that provides nearly all 3! In this post, though, we will explore the 4 main fire making components of the Mullein plant.

Mullein In Summer

Mullein In Summer

Mullein typically grows from 4 to 8 feet tall and is easily spotted in late summer by its beautiful flowering yellow spike. Once the plant has died in late fall, the dry mullein stalk will stand for months afterward – well into winter and even the next summer.

Mullein in Winter

Mullein in Winter

For fire making, this season is when the Mullein plant is most useful. Below is a break-down of the 4 Fire Components of the Mullein Plant:

Component # 1: Mullein Leaves

Dried Mullein Leaves used as a Tinder Bundle

Dried Mullein Leaves used as a Tinder Bundle

No matter the method of fire-making… you need to start with great tinder. The dried soft and fuzzy mullein leaves make a perfect tinder bundle. Because mullein stands straight and tall off the ground, its leaves are often dry when many other tinder materials are not.

Component # 2: The Dried Flower Spike

Dried Mullein Flower Head - Nature's Feather Sticks

Dried Mullein Flower Head - Nature's Feather Sticks

The dried dead flower spike of the mullein plant has several great uses when it comes to fire. My favorite is to cut up the long dried seed pod spike and use the pieces as fire kindling. These are nature’s perfect Feather Sticks and do the trick EVERY time for me.

Another slang name for Mullein is TORCH PLANT. This comes from when people actually used the dried flower spike as a night-time torch. They would soak the flower spike in pine resin and once set on fire it would act a huge wick and burn for up to 1 hour.

Dried Flower Top Used as TORCH

Dried Flower Top Used as TORCH

Component # 3: The Stalk

When dry, the mullein stalk is very hard on the outside but has a soft pithy center. Because of this, sections cut from the mullein stalk make EXCELLENT spindles for a bow drill or hand drill. Thicker sections of the stalk can also be split in half and used as the Hearth Board to a friction by fire set.

Section of Mullein Stalk before Splitting into Hearth Board

Section of Mullein Stalk before Splitting into Hearth Board

Split stalk to be used as a hearth board for bow drill set

Split stalk to be used as a hearth board for bow drill set

Pieces from the mullein stalk also make great fire wood. They work best to build the fire from it’s fragile stages until it has life of it’s own. It can be easily split into very small sections that take a flame very quickly.

Component # 4: The Root

Mullein Root - A Fire Tool?

Mullein Root - A Fire Tool?

Besides being a great piece of firewood itself, the root can serve as an effective fire making tool as well. If carved properly, the root can be used as hand socket for a bow drill set or as a mouth socket for a hand drill set. Being the hardest part of the plant, the mullein root lends itself well to a socket material.

Mullein Spindle, Hand Socket & Hearth Board

Mullein Spindle, Hand Socket & Hearth Board

**Note in the photo above that I have spliced a piece of GREEN MAPLE on the the top of the mullein spindle. When I was building and testing this set the top of the spindle kept splitting off as I was using it in the bow drill set. I inserted a piece of green maple into the top of the mullein spindle and lashed it on with a piece of paracord so it wouldn’t split out. This solved the problem.

So as you can see, the Mullein plant can pretty much get you from A to Z when it comes to building a fire. I’ve also filmed a video about using the Mullein plant to make fire – I have posted that below.

Hope you enjoy! As always – would love to hear your thoughts and comments…

Cheers~
Creek

Comments

  1. Virginia Schug says:

    Mullein is awesome! Indians use to smoke the seeds for lung issues, and of course it makes a great toilet paper!

  2. loren says:

    creek did u cut notch in mullin plant to make fire. or what. i use mullin all the time to start fire when iam camping an hunting. mtmam11

    • Creek says:

      Yes, I did. I used the base of the stalk with the largest diameter as the fire board. I split it in half and carved the other side flat and then carved the notch after I made my starter burn hole.

  3. We called Mullein' Camper's Wash Cloth' when I was a kid. I tried washing with it once but found it too scratchy. It could be good for cleaning things off though-like tools, dishes etc. In England the nickname for Mullein is 'Witches Candlestick' I think they dipped them in tallow here for use as torches.

  4. Murv says:

    Merry Christmas,
    Awesome video,,,,Hopefully someday we can get together and chew some fat on bushcraft