Verbascum virgatum

Verbascum virgatum Stokes (syn.: V. blattarioides Lam.) (W-Eur.) – A rare but increasing, locally naturalized alien. Apparently first documented from Verviers in 1906 and Wegnez (Pepinster) in 1907. Soon afterwards also seen in the port of Antwerpen. In 1919 and 1920 collected on the ruins of Nieuwpoort (Mosseray 1935-36), apparently as a garden escape. Subsequently seen in Lodelinsart (1948), Haine-Saint-Pierre (1949), etc. In 1980 collected in a sand pit in Elewijt. However, Verbascum virgatum is by far best known from coastal areas between Adinkerke and Nieuwpoort. At least three more or less stable populations are documented from coastal dunes: one in nature reserve Calmeijnbos in Adinkerke (discovered in 2010), one at Hoge Blekker in Koksijde (see further) and one at the military base in Lombardzijde (since 2009). In the known locality in Koksijde (at the Doornpanne nature reserve) Verbascum virgatum was already collected in 1980 (as V. nigrum). It may well be that it has always persisted since its escape around Nieuwpoort in 1919 but remained unnoticed as a result of confusion with Verbascum blattaria and V. nigrum. In the past years also repeatedly observed in and around Gent, for instance at Achtervisserij (since 2007 and regularly confirmed afterwards) or in grassland by E17 motorway in Ledeberg in 2012. Probably still overlooked in other places.

Verbascum virgatum is much reminiscent of V. blattaria and, in some characters, they overlap. However, it is readily distinguished by the presence of bracts and bracteoles, pedicels that are shorter than the capsule, flowers are often more than one per axil and stems are usually more or less glandular throughout. Moreover, corollas always seem to be yellow while white-flowered plants are frequently seen in Verbascum blattaria.

Selected literature:

Benedí González C. & Rovira López A.M. (1987) Aportación al conocimiento taxonómico de "Verbascum blattaria" L. y "Verbascum virgatum" Stokes. Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid 44(2): 381-392. [available online at:]

Killick J. (2000) More on Verbascum virgatum in Oxfordshire. BSBI News 83: 28.

McKean D.R. (1998) A short note on Verbascum in Midlothian, including the hybrid V. x lemaitrei (V. thapsus x V. virgatum). BSBI Scottish Newsl. 20: 21.

Mosseray R. (1935-36), Matériaux pour une flore de Belgique. IV. Le genre Verbascum. Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belg. 68: 88-103.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith