Common Plantain

(Plantago Major)

Liz Nunn © 2011

USDA, NRCS 2011 The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 21 October 2011)
National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Common Plantain (Plantago Major):

Buckhorn, Chimney-Sweeps, English Plantain, Greater Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, Rib Grass, Ribwort, Soldier's Herb

Description:

  Recognized by the large radial rosette of mostly hairless leaves, with long slender flowered spikes reaching a height of up to 2 feet. Leaves or oval shaped long and range from 2 to 12 inches long and 4 inches wide, with 3 to 5 ribs with smooth edges. The green, pencil-shaped flower stalks occur from spring to fall

Flower:

  Found beginning in the Spring and occurring through the Fall at the top of one of many green leafless stalks. Flowers numerous but small ranging from 1/32 to 1/8 in diameter, with very small bell shaped petals. Flowers are purple tinted green to white, fading to brown with age.

Fruit:

  Oval shaped 2 celled pod that splits to reveal 5 to 30 seeds. These seeds are small ranging from dark brown to black

Root:

  Has a short rhizome, with a thick yellow root stalk with extensive fibrous roots. Roots can spread to an area of up to 3 feet.

Food:

  •  The green fruit tastes much like a bland peanut

  •  Immature leaves are eaten raw in early spring as any other green

  •  Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, taste is rather bitter. Leave stems should be removed. Leaves can tenderized by blanching before eating.

  •  Dried seeds are ground to make a meal

  •  The green, oblong fruits taste like inferior peanuts

  •  Once the seed head dries seeds are used as thickener

  •  Whole seeds can be boiled and used same as a hot cereal

  •  Dried leaves can be used as a tea

Medical:

  Plantain in the colonial days was known as one of the essential herbal ingredients in early medicines. It is a known diuretic, astringent and deobstruent, reducing swelling and itching.

  •  Applied directly to open wound a poultice of the leaves is of some value in stopping bleeding.

  •  Provides relief when leaves are rubbed on insects stings.

  •  Provides relief when leaves are applied to burns

  •  Poultice of the leaves and salt applied directly to from venomous snake bites

  •  A power made of the dried leaves mixed with water used to destroy worms


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