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Urban species #125: Narrowleaf plantain Plantago lanceolata

I'm probably guilty of having overused the word "common" in this series. However, if the word ever had an appropriate application, it was in reference to this weed. The plantains (not related to the tropical banana-like food plant) are some of the most common weeds of cities, vacant lots, lawns, and sidewalk cracks. Tolerant of poor soil, compacted soil, salty soil, and so on, plantain innocuously proliferates wherever people tread. According to some sources, this habit was noticed by Native Americans, who named plantain "white man's footprint." More than likely plantain was introduced to North America accidentally, its seeds sneaking in amongst the grain of livestock feed.

Close-up of narrowleaf plantain flower bud:

Blooming. By cottonmanifesto


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 6th, 2006 11:35 pm (UTC)
Hey! That's the "Momma Had a Baby and Its Head Popped Off" plant.

When I was in elementary school, we'd pick the bud stalk, tie a half-hitch in it, and slide it to the top. The knot pops the flower bud off, hopefully firing it in the direction of a peer. This is done while reciting the above phrase.

Delightful morbid fun for kids everywhere! Or at least in Louisville, Kentucky, circa 1988.
May. 9th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
This was done with dandelions in my youth.
Jun. 16th, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
I'm really sad I missed out on this!

Us girls would often make necklaces out of white clover, and boys would stomp on honey bees (in soft clover patches) to stun them, hold them by their wings, and chase the girls with them and make them scream.

I thought boys really, really sucked.
Jun. 16th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC)

This stuff grows all over my hometown in Oklahoma. It lines every city road.

And why is one plantain this plant, and another is like a banana?
Jun. 17th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
Making more narrowleaf plantains.

What do you mean that's "not good enough?" To a narrowleaf plantain, that's the best thing in the world.
Jun. 17th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
You're right. I didn't quite mean it like that.

I just meant, does it have any nutritional or medicinal properties that might be useful to humans.

If it doesn't, that's cool, too. ;)
Jun. 17th, 2006 12:17 am (UTC)
Not much. Probably some European herbivore eats it, and some insects may feed on its pollen or nectar. Herbalists used to make a poultice of it to sooth certain kinds of injury, but that seems like grasping for purposes (couldn't you do that with any plant and it would be somewhat soothing--well, not poison ivy or raspberry). It's an early successional, disturbed and compressed soil colonizer. It probably helps break the soil up and allows the next level of succession to proceed.

Plantain the weed: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin plantg, plantgin-, from planta, sole of the foot (from its broad leaves)

Plantain the starchy banana food plant: Spanish plátano, plántano, plane tree, plantain, from Latin platanus

(American Heritage Dictionary)
Dec. 28th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
plantain is an excellent food source, salads, soups, stews, it complements all meals, and has a slightly nutty taste. it is a notable source of minerals and vitamins, so mild and digestible and a smooth way to add fiber to the diet, i have eaten it raw or cooked wherever i have lived, along with dandelion greens and other so called weeds; my mesclun salad offers texture and healthful interest, longleaf plantain seems tastier and more readily available in all climates.
Aug. 19th, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)
That's right!!!
I used to do that at school!!! in Aus (Vic)
I'm looking for control methods for Narrow-Leaf Plantain does anyone know where I can find it on a web sit?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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