Greater Plantain

Plantago major L.

Family: Plantaginaceae.

Names:

Greater Plantain because it has large leaves.

Other names:

Broad-leaved Plantain.
Great Plantain.

Summary:

A perennial plant with long petioles, prominent veins and very broad leaves that form basal rosettes from which simple flower stems emerge carrying long, green, cylindrical seed heads from October to April.

Description:

Cotyledons:

Two. The cotyledon is 8 to 12 mm long overall with a short petiole, and is hairless. The seedling has a short hypocotyl and no epicotyl.

First Leaves:

The leaves arise singly, the early leaves being 12-18 mm long overall with a petiole 5-6 mm long. They are hairless or have few hairs.

Leaves:

Forms 1 or more basal rosettes.
Stipules - None.
Petiole - Slightly winged, 30-300 mm long
Blade - Thick, broadly egg shaped, 50- 250 mm long x 50-130 mm wide, 5-9 longitudinal veins, and often develop toothed edges. Tip pointed to rounded. Base tapering. They may have short septate hairs on the upper and lower surfaces.

Stems:

None.
Flower stem - Longer than the leaves, 100-600 mm long, circular in cross section, solid or with a small hollow core, and may have short septate hairs.

Flower head:

Terminal spike, cylindrical except at the base, 20-360 mm long x 6-10 mm diameter, with many flowers.

Flowers:

About 2 mm in diameter.
Bracts - Egg shaped to oval, shorter than or equal to the sepals, 1.5-2.5 mm long, obtuse tip. Hairless or rarely with a few hairs.
Ovary - 2 celled. Style 2-4.5 mm long.
Sepals - Almost equal, 1.5-2 mm long, green keel, membranous edges. Hairless or with a few hairs.
Petals - Tubular with 4 lobes. Tube 2-2.5 mm long. Lobes narrowly egg shaped, 1 mm long. . Hairless.
Stamens -
Anthers - 0.8-1 mm long.

Fruit:

Egg shaped to oval, 2-celled capsule, 3-4 mm long with 8-16 seeds.

Seeds:

Small, angular. Covered with a thin mucilaginous layer that becomes jelly like on wetting.

Roots:

Taproot.

Key Characters:

No stems, leaves all radical.
Leaves broad ovate, 50-130 mm broad.
Bract obtuse, nearly as long as the sepals.
Sepals glabrous.
Corolla tube glabrous.
Ovary 2 celled with more than 2 ovules in each cell.
Anthers 0.8-1 mm long.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Short lived perennial. Germination occurs in the autumn.

Physiology:

Reproduction:

By seed.

Flowering times:

October to April in SA.
October to February in Perth.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Crown may form new rosettes.

Hybrids:

Allelopathy:

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed.

Origin and History:

Europe. Northern and central Asia.

Distribution:

NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.
Greater Plantain is found principally in the North and South of Tasmania and is uncommon in the Midlands.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Mainly in damp situations.

Climate:

Temperate.

Soil:

Waterlogged soils.

Plant Associations:

Significance:

Beneficial:

Detrimental:

Weed of ditches, creek banks, waterlogged pasture, wetlands and disturbed areas.
Generally of little economic importance.

Toxicity:

Not recorded as toxic.

Legislation:

None.

Management and Control:

Thresholds:

Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Buck's-Horn Plantain (Plantago coronopus)
Greater Plantain (Plantago major)
Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) has a well-defined depression along the midrib cotyledons.
Sago Weed (Plantago cunninghamii, Plantago drummondii)
Plantago varia.

Plants of similar appearance:

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.

References:

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.

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). P88-89. 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). #991.5.

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). P569.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.