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
- Maritime Species
- Pioneer Species
- Drought-Tolerant Species
- Wildlife food
- Feed plant for domestic animals – chickens will eat the seeds (let them harvest themselves!) and greens sparingly
- Dye Plant
- 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