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Plantago major

Plantago major

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Plantago
Species: P. major
Binomial name
Plantago major

Plantago major is a species of Plantago, family Plantaginaceae. The plant is native to most of Europe and northern and central Asia.[1][2][3] It is widely naturalised elsewhere in the world, where it is a common weed.[4] The standard native English name is Greater Plantain,[1][5][6] though it is also called Common Plantain in some areas where it is introduced, particularly North America.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant with a rosette of leaves 15-30 cm diameter. Each leaf is oval, 5-20 cm long and 4-9 cm broad, rarely up to 30 cm long and 17 cm broad, with an acute apex and a smooth margin; there are five to nine conspicuous veins. The flowers are small, greenish-brown with purple stamens, produced in a dense spike 5-15 cm long on top of a stem 13-15 cm tall (rarely to 70 cm tall).[7][3]

There are three subspecies:[2]

  • Plantago major subsp. major.
  • Plantago major subsp. intermedia (DC.) Arcang.
  • Plantago major subsp. winteri (Wirtg.) W.Ludw.


It grows better than most other plants in compacted soils, and is abundant beside paths, roadsides, and other areas with frequent soil compaction. It is also common in grasslands and as a weed in crops. It is wind-pollinated, and propagates primarily by seeds, which are held on the long, narrow spikes which rise well above the foliage.[7]

Cultivation and uses

The seeds are a common contaminant in cereal grain and other crop seeds, and as a result the species now has a world-wide distribution as a naturalised (and often invasive) weed.[4] It is believed to be one of the first plants to reach North America after European colonisation. Native Americans called the plant "White Man's Footprint" because it appeared wherever white men went.[8]

The leaves are edible and used in herbal medicine, but can be somewhat tough. The taste is that of very bitter salad greens with a lingering aftertaste like spinach. Young leaves are recommended as they are more tender. The leaves when dried make a good tea. The sinews from the broadleaf plantain are very pliable and tough when fresh and/or wettened, and can be used to make small cords or braiding. When dry the sinews harden but also become more brittle[citation needed].

Historical uses as a wound healer and snakebite remedy have been found to have scientific merit. [9] Plantago major contains the cell proliferant allantoin, and is used as a replacement for hepatotoxic Comfrey in herbal preparations (commercial product Solaray Comfree). It also contains acubin.

Some cultivars are used in gardens, including 'Rubrifolia' with purple leaves, and 'Variegata' with variegated leaves.[10]

Other common names include Broadleaf Plantain, Broad-leaved Plantain, Cart Track Plant, Dooryard Plantain, Greater Plantago, Healing Blade, Hen Plant, Lambs Foot, Roadweed, Roundleaf Plantain, Waybread, Wayside Plantain, White Man's Foot[11] .


Wikiversity has bloom time data for Plantago major on the Bloom Clock
  1. ^ a b Natural History Museum: Plantago major
  2. ^ a b Flora Europaea: Plantago major
  3. ^ a b Flora of Pakistan: Plantago major
  4. ^ a b Germplasm Resources Information Network: Plantago major
  5. ^ Joint Nature Conservation Committee: Greater Plantain Plantago major Linnaeus
  6. ^ Botanical Society of the British Isles Database
  7. ^ a b Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  8. ^ Sauer, Leslie Jones (1998). The Once and Future Forest. Island Press, 49. ISBN 1559635533. 
  9. ^ D. Jackson & K. Bergeron Plantain Alternative Nature Online Herbal
  10. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. ISBN 0-333-47494-5
  11. ^ *Britton, Nathaniel Lord; Addison Brown (1913). An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada, Volume 3, second edition, Dover Publications, inc., 245. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Plantago_major". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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