Common Plantain (Plantago major)

Common Plantain (Plantago major)

Common Plantain (Plantago major), also known as the Broadleaf Plantain or Greater Plantain, is a perennial forb/herb in the order Plantaginales and Plantaginaceae (Plantain) family. The order, family and genus names are from the Latin for plant. This plant is native to Europe and Asia but has established itself in North America and can be found throughout the United States and Canada even as far north as Greenland.2 Generally considered a nuisance weed in lawns, it has important medicinal properties and it is edible. The leaves can be consumed in a salad and the seeds ground into a flour substitute. The medical agents in this plant include allantoin, aucubin, ursolic acid, flavonoids and asperuloside. These agents can be extracted from Common Plantain for medical use but this plant may be ingested to treat dysentery or placed on wounds to promote healing.3

The flowers are 1/12 inches (2 millimeters) long, green to brown with four petals, four stamens and one pistil. Bracts enclose the base of the flower. The flowers are collected in a dense spike about two to six inches (five to fifteen centimeters) long at the end of a stem about six inches (fifteen centimeters) from the base of the plant to the bottom of the spike.1,3

The green leaves are basal, alternate and ovate with a sharp point, from two inches to eight inches (five to twenty centimeters) long and 1½ to 3½ inches (four to nine centimeters) wide. The margins are entire (smooth). Five to nine conspicuous veins run in parallel from the base of the leaf to the sharp point..1,3

The fruit is a capsule containing 12 to18, oval, reddish-brown seeds. Each plant can produce as many as 20,000 seeds..1,3

The root system is simple but robust. The roots penetrate hardened soil and help prevent erosion.3

This plant blooms from June to October.1


1. Niering, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead, "The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers," Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1988

2. United States Department of Agriculture, Plants Database,, 2/10/2016

3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,, 2/10/16

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