T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Plantago major (Broad leaved Plantain)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Plantago
Species: P. major
Binomial name : Plantago major
Common name: Broad-leaved plantain, Greater plantain, Common plantain, another one of its common names was "Soldier's Herb" for its use on the battlefield as a field dressing.

This is a very common perennial weed found in many lawns and pastures, and often in waste places as well. It is typically found in "run-down" pastures which do not have much grass and clover in them. It doesn't cause any harm, and is actually eaten by livestock and thus is quite useful. However, pastures with more broad-leaved plantain than grass are usually low-producing pastures, and so is often a sign that the pasture needs replacing. Thus there can be some debate over whether this is really a weed in pastures. Certainly in lawns though, it has no useful features and generally creates an eye-sore. 
The only weed that broad-leaved plantain is likely to be confused with is narrow-leaved plantain. However, the leaf shape and width are quite different (see adjacent photo). Also, the brownish fruits on the seed-head of narrow-leaved plantain are clustered closer to the tip of the stem than with broad-leaved plantain where fruits extend much further down the stem.
It is a herbaceous perennial plant with a rosette of leaves 15-30 cm diameter. Each leaf is oval, 5-20 cm long and 4-9 cm broad, rarely up to 30 cm long and 17 cm broad, with an acute apex and a smooth margin; there are five to nine conspicuous veins. The flowers are small, greenish-brown with purple stamens, produced in a dense spike 5-15 cm long on top of a stem 13-15 cm tall (rarely to 70 cm tall).