Botanical name: Plantago
Botanical name: Plantago
Plantains are a diverse, and widely distributed group of flowering plants. Though they may have the name "Plantain," they are unrelated to culinary plantains. Plantains tend to have large rosettes of leaves, but their wind-pollinated flowers are neither large nor showy. As a result, few are cultivated for ornamental purposes. They are found in many habitats worldwide but are often considered weeds.
Species of Plantains
The wooly plantain (Plantago patagonica) is native to large areas of North America and grows in a variety of habitats. Its long, strap-like leaves are covered in white hairs. The flowers are greenish-white, inconspicuous, and clustered along tall stems, which are also woolly.
Virginia plantain (Plantago virginica) is a perennial wildflower that can grow to be 15 to 30 cm tall. It blooms from spring to summer with 15 cm tall flower spikes that are filled white tiny white blossoms. It is native to Florida and valued as an astringent. The leaves stem and seeds are edible.
Mediterranean plantain is an annual herb similar in appearance to Ribwort Plantain. However, it has broader leaves and bigger flower heads. Mediterranean plantain is a favorite with several insects and provides food for several butterfly and moth larvae.
Desert indian wheat
Plantago ovata, or desert indian wheat, is native to the southwestern United States, as well as western and southern Asia, where it grows wild and weedy in poor soil conditions. This low-growing plant is a member of the plantain family but bears no resemblance to the plantain you'd find in a grocery store. Starch from pulverized desert indian wheat seed husks is regularly used as clothing starch.
While native to Europe, the common plantain was one of the first plants to reach North America through early European explorers. Native Americans have referred to Plantago major as 'white man's footprint', as it disrupted many local ecosystems by its introduction.
Plantago depressa are a diverse, and widely distributed group of flowering plants. Though they may have the name "Plantain," they are unrelated to culinary plantains. Plantago depressa tend to have large rosettes of leaves, but their wind-pollinated flowers are neither large nor showy. As a result, few are cultivated for ornamental purposes. They are found in many habitats worldwide but are often considered weeds.
The sand plantain is a 50 cm-high Therophyte. The plant is spreading and has upright, branching, bushy growth. The stems are loosely bristly or have scattered glandular hairs. The leaves are linear-lanceolate, opposite, flat, thin, 3-nerved, 6 to 8 cm long, and 2.5 to 5 mm wide. They are divided at the base and have either entire or bluntly toothed edges. A basal leaf rosette is absent.
Redseed plantain (Plantago rhodosperma) is an annual herbaceous plant that blooms in spring with greenish-white flowers that are small and grow along a flowering stalk. It is native to the Americas and is commonly found growing on roadsides from Nebraska to Mexico.
Sea plantain (Plantago maritima) is an herbaceous perennial plant that blooms small greenish-brown flowers in summer. Seeds ripen from summer to fall. It can tolerate harsh seaside climates and has a strong taproot that grows deep to act like an anchor.
Snakeroot is found in sunny, disturbed areas growing in clay, sand, and, rocky soil. It is a commonly cultivated plant in China, but in the United States, it is an invasive weed in lawns and gardens.
Largebracted plantain (Plantago aristata) is indigenous to the eastern and central United States. Beyond its native range, it’s considered a noxious weed. Other names for it include awl-aster and subulate-bracted aster. It commonly grows by the sides of roads.
Glandular plantain can be found in Malta and the surrounding region, but the plant is not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands. Its appearance is similar to other plants in the genus except for its broad leaves.
Buck's horn plantain
The buck's horn plantain (Plantago coronopus) is an edible weed commonly found in lawns and backyards. The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, but older leaves may be too tough to be edible. This plant is hardy and can be grown as an annual or perennial.
Blackseed plantain (Plantago rugelii) is a plantain species native to eastern Canada and the central United States. The Latin name Plantago rugelii references Ferdinand Ignatius Xavier Rugel, a German-born botanist.
Ribwort plantain grows in a number of different habitats as long as it has enough sunlight. Its leaves have characteristic parallel veins that make it easy to identify. The heads of ribwort plantains get popped off in some common British children's games. Its seeds are critical food sources for songbirds, and its leaves are eaten by rabbits and deer.
Hoary plantain is a member of the plantain family, but should not be confused with the banana-like, starchy fruit which is from a different family altogether. The flowers are pollinated by both bees and the wind. Birds are fond of the seeds, and hoary plantain seeds are even included in some commercial birdseed mixes.
Another name for prairie plantain (Plantago elongata) is slender plantain. It’s a species that’s indigenous to western North America. It thrives best in wetlands of all types, such as freshwater marshes, ocean beaches and vernal pools. Although it was considered an endangered species at one time, it has made a comeback in recent years.
Dark plantain are a diverse, and widely distributed group of flowering plants. Though they may have the name "Plantain," they are unrelated to culinary plantains. Dark plantain tend to have large rosettes of leaves, but their wind-pollinated flowers are neither large nor showy. As a result, few are cultivated for ornamental purposes. They are found in many habitats worldwide but are often considered weeds.