Plantago major L.


Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)




Common Plantain  

                                        May Photo


Plant Characteristics: Mostly perennial, heavy-rooted, acaulescent; lvs. thick, ascending, usually roughish, with minute hairs, broadly elliptic to somewhat cordate-ovate, the blades 5-15 cm. long, obtuse, with several conspicuous nerves converging at base and apex; petioles winged, mostly shorter than and rather abruptly expanded into blades; spikes linear-cylindric, dense, 0.5-4 (-7) dm. high, curved-ascending to erect; bracts broadly ovate, scarious-margined, mostly shorter than calyx; sepals 1.5-2 mm. long, broad, the anterior separate; corolla-lobes pointed, 0.5 mm. long; caps. broadly conic, brown or purplish, mostly 6-10 seeded; seeds brown, reticulate, papillate, scarcely 1 mm. long.  Variable with a number of named forms.


Habitat:  Weed of damp waste places.  April-Sept.


Name:  Plantago is from Latin meaning "footprint" which is a curious coincidence with the American Indian name.  (see below). Latin, major, larger. (Jaeger 148). Referring to the leaves. 


General:  Occasional in the study area.  Photographed along the Delhi Ditch.  (my comments).      The seeds of P. major have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs.  The American Indians called it "White Man's Foot," since it appeared shortly after every new incursion of Europeans.  Young leaves are tasty, boiled, or eaten fresh in salads.  (Dale 152).      For wounds the whole plant is used, and the leaves are soaked a bit after being washed and bound to the sore spot.  For internal use in diarrhea an infusion is made of an ounce of the plant to a pint of boiling water, taken in wine glass doses.  Writers from our Southland and from Mexico suggest that an ointment made from the leaves is good for sore eyes.  (Coon 173).      Leaves of P. major are good for wrapping other food.  The seeds are good to eat.  (lecture by Charlotte Clarke, author of Edible and Useful Plants of California, April 1987.      Leaves of P. major can be steeped and used for urinary troubles.  This same solution can be used to soothe burns.  (Fielder 37, 244).      Leaves of P. major when heated and applied to a thorn or splinter will help in its extraction.  To treat a swelling, turn the top of the leaf toward the skin.  For skin inflammations, ulcers, intermittent feverish skin, or bleeding, place the underside of the leaf on the skin.  (Fielder 24).      P. major was supposed to protect you from snakebite if you carried a piece of the root in your pocket, but if you were bitten anyway you could make a tea of the plantain leaves to cure the bite.  Bee stings can be soothed by heated plantain leaves applied over the wound.  (Fielder 13).      The fresh juice can be almost miraculous in mild stomach ulcers; it can be preserved with twenty-five percent vodka or ten percent grain alcohol, one teaspoon in warm water one hour before every meal until pain ceases.  (Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 129).      Plantain is a superior remedy for neuralgia--take 2-5 drops of the tincture every 20 minutes; usually a   few drops will give relief.  The green seeds and stem boiled in milk will generally check diarrhea and bowel complaints of children.  (Hutchens 152).  


Text Ref:  Hickman, Ed. 821; Munz, Calif. Flora 405; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 635; Roberts 32.

Photo Ref:  April-May 85 # 22,23.

Identity: by R. De Ruff, confirmed by F. Roberts.

Computer Ref:  Plant Data 244.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 3/23/03.


                                            May Photo