Plantain (This is also used for an unrelated group of species in the banana genus).
The mature plant has leaves with teeth so that they resemble reindeer's horns and form a rosette of 150 to 250 mm in diameter. The dense, brown cylindrical flower head appears from September to December and is borne on a simple flower stem which tends to grow horizontally to a point just beyond the diameter of the rosette, and then vertically for 40 to 100 mm.
Two. The cotyledons are 10 to 15 mm long by less than 1.0 mm wide, flattened on the back, stalkless, club shaped, hairless, and without a well defined central groove and rounded tip. The seedling has a very short hypocotyl and no epicotyl.
The leaves arise singly, the first being 15 to 25 mm long, are stalkless, narrowly egg shaped to oblong with a rounded tip and distinct forward directed white hairs. The first six or so leaves are often parallel sided.
Forms 1 or more rosettes,150-200 mm in diameter. Older leaves look like Reindeer Buck's horns.
Stipules - None.
Petiole - None.
Blade - Early leaves are parallel sided, then lateral teeth begin to develop, initially one per side, but increasing in numbers and depth in later leaves. In the mature plant the teeth may be toothed again with the teeth opposite each other. 10-150 mm long by 2-50 mm wide overall. Teeth have acute tips. Hairy to almost hairless.
Flower stem - Solid, stout, circular in cross section, slightly longer than the leaves, up to 200 mm long and carries longish hairs. It is non-branching and tends to grow horizontally to a point just beyond the diameter of the rosette, and thereafter vertically for some 40 to 100 mm.
Elongated, 20-140 mm long by 3.5-4.5 mm diameter, dense, hard, pale brown to purplish, cylindrical spike with numerous overlapping flowers and bract pressed closely to the axis. On the ends of long, stout, leafless stems(scapes) and usually held well clear of the leaves. Prominent yellow anthers often surround the flower head.
2 mm in diameter. Stalkless in the axil of a small bract.
Bracts - 1, as long as the sepals, egg shaped, 2-3 mm long with a long tapering tip and membranous edges. Usually has hairs on the edges and base only.
Ovary - 3 celled. Style 2.5-3 mm long.
Sepals - Free. 2 upper sepals at the back, egg shaped, 2.5-3 mm long with a hairy keel or wing and membranous edges. 2 lower sepals, 2-2.5 mm long, oval, with one edge membranous and hairless and the other papery and hairy.
Petals - 4, greenish. Silky hairy tube, except at the base, about as long as the calyx, 2 mm long. Lobes narrowly egg shaped, 1 mm long, with pointed tips.
Stamens - 5 mm long and attached to the base of the petal tube and stick well out of the flower.
Anthers - Yellow with a thin papery inner face.
Membranous, egg shaped capsule, 2-2.5 mm long by 1.5 mm diameter, 3 celled, with 1-5 seeds. Breaks along a horizontal line below the middle.
Convex disk shaped, sometimes winged. Covered with a thin mucilaginous layer that becomes jelly like on wetting.
No true stem, the leaves are all in a radical rosette with stem like scapes.
Leaves linear or lanceolate in outline, pinnatifid or sharply and conspicuously toothed, rarely almost entire. One nerved.
Bracts pointed, as long as the ciliate sepals.
Corolla tube pubescent outside.
Ovary 3 celled with one ovule in each cell.
Annual, biennial or perennial. Germination occurs in the autumn and grows through the cooler months but rarely survives over summer. It flowers in spring and summer.
It can withstand trampling, and has a high salt tolerance, which allows it to grow very close to the sea.
Mainly spring to early summer in western NSW.
October to March in SA.
September to December in Perth.
Spring to early summer in WA.
Seed Biology and Germination:
At least 2 subspecies occur in Australia, ssp. commutata and ssp. coronopus. Ssp. commutata occurs in the Perth region.
Population Dynamics and Dispersal:
Spread by seed.
Origin and History:
Europe. Mediterranean. South west Asia.
ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.
Buck's-horn Plantain is found throughout Tasmania and is especially prevalent in coastal areas.
More abundant in higher rainfall areas.
Loam and clay loam soils.
Palatable fodder but rarely provides a significant proportion of pastures available.
It is a weed of pastures, lawn, roadsides and disturbed areas.
It is not normally of great significance as a weed, being poorly competitive, but it can create problems in poor quality pasture and in lawns established on low fertility coastal soils.
Not recorded as toxic.
Management and Control:
Greater Plantain (Plantago major)
Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) has a well defined depression along the midrib of the longer, narrower cotyledons, The early leaves are hairier, have a well define depression along the midrib and prominent lengthwise veins.
Both Spurry (Spergula arvensis) and Purple Calandrinia (Calandrinia menziesii) have similar cotyledons (though that of Spurry is circular in cross section) but totally different leaves.
Wireweed (Polygonum aviculare) has narrower cotyledons with an acute tip and the leaves are hairless with a membranous sheath at the base.
Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P201. Photo.
Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P793.
Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P334. Diagram.
Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P617. Photo.
Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P196. Photo.
Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1975). Tasmanian weed handbook. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P86-87. Diagrams.
Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).
Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). P991.1.
Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P568.