Broad-leaved plantain, Plantago major

Life Cycle

Perennial

Propagation

Reproducing only by seed

Stems

Plant stemless, except for the leafless flowering stalks.

Leaves

Leaves are all in a basal rosette, oval or elliptic, 5-30cm long. The leaf blade is about as long as its thick green stalk, smooth or somewhat rough-hairy, with 3 to several prominent veins radiating from the leafstalk towards the tip, margins smooth or irregularly toothed.

Flowers and Fruit

The flowers are in a compact spikes on erect, leafless stalks from among the basal leaves. Each spike is about the size and shape of a lead pencil but consisting of many, tiny, stalkless, greenish flowers giving it a coarsely granular texture. Each flower is about 2-3mm across, with 4 sepals, 4 petals, 2 stamens and 1 pistil. The egg-shaped seedpod develops beneath the withering flower. This mature seedpod splitting apart with a circular fracture around its middle so that the top part drops off and releases the 5 to 16 dark brown or nearly black angular seeds, each about 1mm long. Flowers and sets seed from spring until late autumn.

Habitat

Broad-leaved plantain is very common in all but the most remote unsettled areas of Ontario occurring in cultivated land, pastures, meadows, waste places, roadsides, lawns and gardens.

Distinguishing Features

It is distinguished by its rosette of dull green, oval leaves with thick green stalks, and its elongated spikes of tiny green flowers each followed by a small egg-shaped pod with usually more than 5 tiny dark brown or nearly black seeds.


Figure #1.

A. Mature plant B. Seedling C. Cotyledon


Figure #2.

Young seedling.


Figure #3.

Basal rosette of Broad-leaved plantain.


Figure #4.

Leaf with prominent veins radiating from the leafstalk towards the leaf tip.


Figure #5.

Whole plant with seedhead.


Figure #6.

Seedpod.