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Plantago major

Common Name(s):
Edible Plants, Perennials

Plantago major is an herbaceous perennial species of plantago, family Plantaginaceae. The plant is native to most of Europe and northern and central Asia, but has widely naturalised elsewhere in the world.  Plantago major grows in lawns and fields, along roadsides, and in other areas that have been disturbed by humans. Native Ameicans called it "white man's foot print" because it appeared and thrived in distrubed areas around European settlements.  Plantago does particularly well in compacted or disturbed soils and can survive repeated trampling.  Its roots work to break up hard pan soil and can help stop erosion.  

It forms a rosette of broady lance to egg-shaped leaves with smooth margins and an acute apex.  Leaves are 2-8 inches long and 2-4 inches wide.  They have 5-7 prominant veins that start at the base of the leaf are stringy and can be seen in the petiole if a leaf is pulled from the plant.  Flowers appear April to September and are inconspicuous greenish-brown with white to purple stamens.  The flowers appear on spikes from the center of plant and seeds form all down the flower stem.  Plaintain is wind pollinated.  Each plant can produce 20,000 small oval-shaped orange to black bitter tasting seeds.  


Compare this Plant to: Plantago lanceolata

spring, summer, fall, winter
12 inches
Flower Color:
zone 5
poor, compacted
All of US
Europe and Asia
Broadleaf plantain is also a highly nutritious wild edible, that is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. The young, tender leaves can be eaten raw, and the older, stringier leaves can be boiled in stews and eaten. Seeds are also edible.
edible, edible weed, weed

NCCES plant id: 2846

Plantago major Whole plant
Ekenitr, CC BY-NC-2.0
Plantago major Leaf
Emilian Robert Vicol, CC BY - 2.0
Plantago major Flower
Prilfish, CC BY - 2.0
Plantago major Seeds for all the way down the flower stalk.
Carmona Rodriguez cc, CC-BY-SA-2.0