Scientific Name: Plantago species
Family: Plantaginaceae (the Plantain family)
Psyllium (Plantago afra)
Che Qian Zi (Plantago asiatica)
Buck’s-Horn Plantain (Plantago coronopus)
Ribwort/Buckhorn Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Common/Broadleaf/Greater Plantain (Plantago major)
Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima)
Hoary Plantain (Plantago media)
Blond Plantain (Plantago ovate)
Fleawort (Plantago psyllium)
Plantain is considered a common lawn weed. However, it has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant (for inflammation, bleeding, and infections) as well as a potherb and salad green. It is also a great addition to the Forest Garden, as it attracts beneficial insects, is a dynamic mineral accumulator, is tolerant of drought, and is a great forage crop for animals.
Native to Europe and Asia, and used for thousands of years as a medicinal (primarily) and food (secondarily) plant. It has spread easily, typically with accidental introduction of seeds, and found new homes around the world. It is seen as a lawn weed in most “modern” cultures, but is still used by traditional, or tradionally-minded, people as food and medicine.
Many of the Plantago species are used in the commercial preparation of dietary fiber supplements known as Psyllium.
Plantain, while originally from Europe, was introduced to North America with European settlers, hence the name “white man’s foot.”
USING THIS PLANT
Edible Leaves – decent taste, but most species are fibrous unless strands removed first (young leaves are most tender), often blanched to make more tender. Most often used as flavor/nutrition addition to mixed salads (reportedly the best eating are Buck’s-Horn and Sea Plantain)
Edible Seeds – takes lots of time to harvest, but can be eaten raw or cooked or ground as flour addition. Considered a great fiber source.
Medicinal Species – long history as anti-bleeding and anti-swelling
General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
Feed plant for domestic animals – chickens will eat the seeds (let them harvest themselves!) and greens sparingly
Tea Plant – dried or fresh leaves
Yield: Not applicable/No good information available
Harvesting: Anytime there are green leaves on the plant. Seeds are harvested Summer-Autumn
Storage: Use leaves fresh or dry immediately. Seeds are used fresh or dried immediately.
DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-15 (although some species are less cold tolerant)
AHS Heat Zone: 12-1
Chill Requirement: Unlikely, but no reliable information available
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Many species available. Some have been improved as ornamentals.
No good information, but likely irrelevant as Plantago species reseed on their own so easily… just ask any lawn-Nazi!
Ribwort/Buckhorn Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) has longer thinner leaves than Common Plantain (Plantago major)
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Size: 4-24 inches (10-60 centimeters) tall and wide – depending on the species
Roots: Many species have fibrous roots, but some (Plantago lanceolata) have a taproot
Growth Rate: Fast
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Does not tolerate much shade
Moisture: Medium to Wet soils
pH: can tolerate a wide range of soils
Special Considerations for Growing:
Plantago species are considered weeds because they can grow almost anywhere at anytime. This is a great problem to have, in my opinion; but neighbors with highly manicured lawns may not agree. Of course, I will never live that close to a neighbor again if I can help it!
Propagation: Typically by seed – direct sow in Spring. Can transplant “wild” specimens. Many locations already have their own populations; just encourage their growth.
As with many “weed” species, Platain may cause an allergic reaction in some people (very few). Always try a new food in small amounts to see how you will react.
Another image of Common Plantain (Plantago major)
Original Article Here