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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

This perennial herb flowers from May to October (1), and is pollinated by wind (2). A single plant can produce as many as 15,000 seeds (1). This ubiquitous plant was called 'English man's foot' by the Native Americans of New England as it seemed to crop up in the very footsteps of the settlers (5).  The leaves are very resistant to trampling, and as a result they were thought to heal bruises and wounds caused by crushing (4). They were also used to treat ulcers and sores (5). Under the name 'way-bread' it was one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons. In fact the leaves do actually contain tannins and certain astringent substances that soothe cuts and nettle stings (4), and they are still used in parts of Shetland for burns and wounds (5).
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Description

Greater plantain Plantago major is a familiar plant that forms a rosette of dark green leaves that lie close to the ground. The flowers are borne on a narrow spike, earning the species the alternative name of 'rats' tails' (4). A subspecies (Plantago major intermedia) was described in Britain in 1958 (3). This subspecies tends to be a smaller plant, with fewer veins on the leaves (2), however its morphological characteristics are not yet clear, and more work in this area is required (3).
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Comprehensive Description

Description

Perennial herb with leaves spirally arranged in a dense basal rosette. Leaves ovate to broadly elliptic 3-9-veined from the base; margin subentire to irregularly dentate. One to several erect stems arise with single terminal inflorescences; flowers in elongated spikes, greenish. Capsules reddish-brown.
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Comments

This is a common lawn weed that is able to resist mowing because of its low basal leaves. Even stunted specimens of this plant can produce small flowering spikes. Common Plantain is very similar in appearance to the native Plantago rugelii (Black-Seeded Plantain), which is another common lawn weed. The easiest way to distinguish these two species involves an examination of the seed capsules on a a mature floral spike (one that has become purple or brown). Common Plantain has ovoid seed capsules that split open around the middle at maturity. In contrast, Black-Seeded Plantain has oblongoid seed capsules that split open toward the bottom at maturity. By applying pressure with the fingers, it is possible to split open the seed capsules a little prematurely. These two species also differ in the appearance of their seeds and the shape of their sepals.
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Description

This introduced perennial plant is consists of a low rosette of basal leaves about 5-12" across, from which one or more flowering stalks develop. The blades of the basal leaves are 2-5" long and 1½–3" across; they are oval in shape with about 5 parallel veins and smooth margins. The upper surface of each blade is medium green and glabrous to sparsely canescent, while the lower surface of each blade is light green and sometimes finely pubescent along the veins. The petioles are a little shorter than their blades, light green, and usually glabrous. The upper surface of each petiole has a concave groove along its length. The flowering stalks are 4-20" long, unbranched, and more or less erect. The lower one-third of each stalk is green, terete, glabrous to finely pubescent, and naked; a narrowly cylindrical spike of greenish flowers occurs along the upper two-thirds of each stalk. These small flowers are densely distributed along the spike. Each flower is only 1/8" across, consisting of 4 green sepals, a pistil with a single white style, 4 stamens with pale purple anthers, and a papery corolla with 4 spreading lobes. Each sepal has a green keel and membranous margins; it is ovate to oval in shape (including the margins). The tiny lobes of the corolla are lanceolate in shape and smaller than the sepals. At the base of each flower, there is a green bract that is ovate to oval in shape and about the same length as the sepals. The blooming period can occur from early summer to early fall. A single floral spike remains in bloom for about 2 weeks, but the same plant can produce a succession of spikes that bloom at different times of the year. Furthermore, some plants produce their spikes earlier or later than others. The flowers are wind-pollinated. The flowers are replaced by ovoid seed capsules that are individually about 3 mm. long at maturity; they are initially green, but later become purple or brown. Each seed capsule is circumscissile and splits open around the middle to release the seeds. Each capsule contains about 6-15 seeds. The seeds are 1.0–1.5 mm. long, light to dark brown, and somewhat flattened; the seed surface is finely reticulated (requires 10x hand lens to see). The root system consists of a short crown with fibrous roots.
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Miscellaneous Details

Notes: Along river banks
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Worldwide distribution

Europe, N Africa, N and C Asia; naturalised widely in the rest of the world
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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Common Plantain is common in NE Illinois, occasional to locally common in central Illinois, and occasional to absent elsewhere in the state (see Distribution Map). It is likely that this plant is more widely distributed than official records indicate; it was introduced from Europe and is widely distributed across the continent of North America. Habitats include lawns, mowed roadsides, compacted soil along paths, vacant lots, and waste areas. Areas with a history of human-related disturbance are preferred. This plant is more common in urban areas than elsewhere.
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"Maharashtra: Pune, Satara, Konkan"
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Distribution in Egypt

Nile region, Oases, Mediterranean region and Sinai.

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Global Distribution

Europe, Mediterranean region, Sinai, Arabia to central and northern Asia.

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Range

Evidence of this native species has been found in pre-Neolithic deposits (1). It is very common and widespread in Britain and is also found throughout mainland Europe, in north Africa, northern and central Asia. It has become naturalised in most temperate parts of the world (2). Subspecies intermedia has been widely under-recorded and has a much smaller range (3).
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Distribution: Throughout Europe, northern and central Asia, introduced all over the world.
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Europe and W. Asia, widely introduced elsewhere.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Vern.: Kashmir: Gul.-Isafgol; N.W.F.P.: Ghuzhbe; Punjab: Gaz pipal. (Fruits); Baluchistan: Bartung; (Seeds:) Kahri Gosh; English: Nipple Grass, Waybread; Great plantain.

Perennial acaulescent herbs, variable with short stout, erect, truncate, rootstocks and numerous adventitious roots. Leaves in rosettes, spirally arranged, petiolate, sometimes not clearly distinguished into petiole and lamina; lamina ovate elliptic or rarely rotundate (1-) 10-20 (-30) cm long, (1-) 4-9 (-17) cm broad, rounded at apex, entire, subentire or sinuately dentate, 3-9 nerved, nerves divergent at the base, bases tapering and decurrent into long sheathing petioles usually equalling the lamina. Scapes many, 13-15 (-70) cm long, arched, erect, glabrous to slightly pilose. Spikes dense or lax, slender, narrow-cylindric, 5-15 cm long. Bracts equalling or shorter than the calyx, ovate-oblong, ± acute, brownish with a brown keel, margins scarious. Calyx 3 mm long, glabrous; sepals broadly elliptic, oblong to rounded obtuse or subacute, obtusely keeled, margins broadly scarious. Corolla greenish or yellowish white, 2-4 mm long, glabrous, lobes elliptic- ovate to narrowly triangular, 1-1.15 mm long, obtuse or acute, reflexed. Anthers at first lilac, later whitish or yellowish. Capsule 2-3 mm long, globose or subconic, glabrous. Seeds minute, 6-10 (-34), angulate, dull black, rugulose, 1-1.7 mm long, 0.8 mm broad.

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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

Habit: Herb
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Common Plantain is common in NE Illinois, occasional to locally common in central Illinois, and occasional to absent elsewhere in the state (see Distribution Map). It is likely that this plant is more widely distributed than official records indicate; it was introduced from Europe and is widely distributed across the continent of North America. Habitats include lawns, mowed roadsides, compacted soil along paths, vacant lots, and waste areas. Areas with a history of human-related disturbance are preferred. This plant is more common in urban areas than elsewhere.
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Comments: Waste places and fields.

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Found in open habitats and typically occurs on tracks and paths subject to trampling, disturbed roadsides, field edges, and grasslands (3). The subspecies intermedia is usually found in saline habitats, such as the upper sections of saltmarsh and close to coastal creeks (3).
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Broad-Leaved Plantain in Illinois

Plantago major (Broad-Leaved Plantain) introduced
(Bees collect pollen; this plant species is wind-pollinated; observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus pensylvanica cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella aurata cp, Lasioglossum versatus cp fq
Insect activities:
cp = collects pollen
fq = frequent flower visitor (about 6 or more visits reported)

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Flower-Visiting Insects of Broad-Leaved Plantain in Illinois

Plantago major (Broad-Leaved Plantain) introduced
(Bees collect pollen; this plant species is wind-pollinated; observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus pensylvanica cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella aurata cp, Lasioglossum versatus cp fq

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Faunal Associations

Because the flowers are wind-pollinated, they attract few insect visitors. However, Syrphid flies sometimes feed on the pollen. The caterpillars of the butterfly Junonia coenia (Buckeye) and several species of moth (see Moth Table) feed on Plantago spp. (primarily the foliage). Other insect feeders include Dysaphis plantaginea (Rosy Apple Aphid), Dibolia borealis (Flea Beetle sp.), Gymnaetron pascuorum (Seedpod Weevil sp.), and Melanoplus bivittatus (Two-Striped Grasshopper). Cardinals, Grasshopper Sparrows, and probably other birds feed on either the seeds or seed capsules to a minor extent; the Ruffed Grouse occasionally eats the leaves. The non-toxic leaves and flowering stalks of Common Plantain are readily consumed by groundhogs, rabbits, deer, cattle, sheep, and other mammalian herbivores. Photographic Location
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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / spot causer
gregarious, dark brown pycnidium of Ascochyta coelomycetous anamorph of Ascochyta plantaginis causes spots on live leaf (esp. young) of Plantago major
Remarks: season: 6-11

Foodplant / sap sucker
Brachycaudus helichrysi sucks sap of Plantago major

Foodplant / open feeder
adult of Chrysolina haemoptera grazes on leaf of Plantago major
Remarks: captive: in captivity, culture, or experimentally induced

Foodplant / parasite
cleistothecium of Erysiphe sordida parasitises live Plantago major
Remarks: season: 9-10

Foodplant / sap sucker
Myzus cerasi sucks sap of live flower of Plantago major

Foodplant / spot causer
sporangium of Peronospora alta causes spots on live leaf of Plantago major
Remarks: season: 7-8
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed under blackish-brown epidermis pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis subordinaria is saprobic on dead stem (upper part) of Plantago major
Remarks: season: 6-11

Foodplant / spot causer
scattered pycnidium of Phyllosticta coelomycetous anamorph of Phyllosticta plantaginis causes spots on live leaf of Plantago major
Remarks: season: 8

Foodplant / miner
larva of Phytomyza plantaginis mines live leaf of Plantago major
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / spot causer
Ramularia anamorph of Ramularia plantaginis causes spots on live leaf of Plantago major

Foodplant / spot causer
amphigenous colony of Ramularia anamorph of Ramularia rhabdospora causes spots on live leaf of Plantago major
Remarks: season: 3-10

Foodplant / spot causer
epiphyllous, covered then erumpent pycnidium of Septoria coelomycetous anamorph of Septoria plantaginea causes spots on fading leaf of Plantago major

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Population Biology

Frequency

Occasional
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flower/Fruit

Fl.Per: Aug.-Sept.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Plantago major

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Plantago major

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 24
Specimens with Barcodes: 46
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Plantago uliginosa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Abundant through Europe, Northern U.S. and Canada.

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Status

Not threatened (3).
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Threats

This species is not threatened at present.
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Management

Conservation

Conservation action is not required for this common species.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Leaf: Juice extracted from warmed leaves is placed in the eye to reduce the irritations of trauma or conjunctivitis; decoction of leaves mixed with leaves of Chenopodium ambrosioides is consumed by women to relieve menopausal troubles, and drunk to soothe digestion; crushed young leaves are applied to the ulcers of leishmaniasis.

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Cultivation

Common Plantain prefers full or partial sun, moist to mesic conditions, and soil containing loam or clay loam. It tolerates considerable compaction of the soil, but the size of individual plants will be somewhat smaller. Individual seeds can remain viable for up to 60 years and require light to germinate.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Wikipedia

Plantago major

Plantago major (broadleaf plantain or greater plantain) is a species of Plantago, family Plantaginaceae. The plant is native to most of Europe and northern and central Asia,[1][2][3] but has widely naturalised elsewhere in the world.[1][4][5][6][7]

Plantago major is one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal crops in the world. A poultice of the leaves can be applied to wounds, stings, and sores in order to facilitate healing and prevent infection. The active chemical constituents are aucubin (an anti-microbial agent), allantoin (which stimulates cellular growth and tissue regeneration), and mucilage (which reduces pain and discomfort). Plantain has astringent properties, and a tea made from the leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes.

Broadleaf plantain is also a highly nutritious wild edible, that is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. The young, tender leaves can be eaten raw, and the older, stringier leaves can be boiled in stews and eaten.

Description[edit]

Plantago major is notable for its ability to colonize compacted and disturbed soils, and to survive repeated trampling.

Plantago major is an herbaceous perennial plant with a rosette of leaves 15–30 cm in diameter.[3][8]

Each leaf is oval-shaped, 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).[3][8]

Plantain is wind-pollinated, and propagates primarily by seeds, which are held on the long, narrow spikes which rise well above the foliage.[8][9] Each plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds, which are very small and oval-shaped, with a bitter taste.[10]

There are three subspecies:[2]

  • Plantago major subsp. major.
  • Plantago major subsp. intermedia (DC.) Arcang.
  • Plantago major subsp. winteri (Wirtg.) W.Ludw.

Ecology[edit]

Developing fruits of Plantago major

Plantago major grows in lawns and fields, along roadsides, and in other areas that have been disturbed by humans. Plantago does particularly well in compacted or disturbed soils. It is believed to be one of the first plants to reach North America after European colonisation. Reportedly brought to the Americas by Puritan colonizers, plantain was known among some Native American peoples by the common name "white man's footprint", due to how it thrived in the disturbed and damaged ecosystems surrounding European settlements.[11] The ability of plantain to survive frequent trampling and colonize compacted soils makes it important for soil rehabilitation. Its roots break up hardpan surfaces, while simultaneously holding together the soil to prevent erosion.[12]

The seeds of plantain are a common contaminant in cereal grain and other crop seeds. As a result, it now has a worldwide distribution as a naturalised species.[4]

Edibility[edit]

The leaves are edible as a salad green when young and tender, but they quickly become tough and fibrous as they get older. The older leaves can be cooked in stews.[13] The leaves contain calcium and other minerals, with 100 grams of plantain containing approximately the same amount of vitamin A as a large carrot. The seeds are so small that they are tedious to gather, but they can be ground into a flour substitute or extender.[14]

Medicinal use[edit]

Plantain is found all over the world, and is one of the most abundant and accessible medicinal herbs.[15] It contains many bioactive compounds, including allantoin, aucubin, ursolic acid, flavonoids, and asperuloside.[16][17] Scientific studies have shown that plantain extract has a wide range of biological effects, including "wound healing activity, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, weak antibiotic, immuno modulating and antiulcerogenic activity".[10]

For millennia, poultices of plantain leaves have been applied to wounds, sores, and stings to promote healing.[18] The active constituents are the anti-microbial compound aucubin, the cell-growth promoter allantoin, a large amount of soothing mucilage, flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives, and alcohols in the wax on the leaf surface. The root of plantain was also traditionally used to treat wounds, as well as to treat fever and respiratory infections.[19]

Due to its astringent properties, a tea of plantain leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea or dysentery. Due to the high vitamin and mineral content, plantain tea simultaneously replenishes the nutrients lost as a result of diarrhea.[20] Adding fresh plantain seeds or flower heads to a tea will act as an effective lubricating and bulking laxative and soothe raw, sore throats.[21]

When ingested, the aucubin in plantain leaves leads to increased uric acid excretion from the kidneys, and may be useful in treating gout.[22]

Other uses[edit]

The sinews from the mature plant are very pliable and tough, and can be used in survival situations to make small cords, fishing line, sutures, or braiding.[23]

Cultivar 'Rubrifolia' of Plantago major

Some cultivars are planted as ornamentals in gardens, including 'Rubrifolia' with purple leaves, and 'Variegata' with variegated leaves.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Natural History Museum: Plantago major
  2. ^ a b Flora Europaea: Plantago major
  3. ^ a b c Flora of Pakistan: Plantago major
  4. ^ a b Germplasm Resources Information Network: Plantago major
  5. ^ As a result, Plantago major has many common names. In addition to "broadleaf plantain" and "greater plantain", other common names include: Common Plantain, Broad-leaved Plantain, Cart Track Plant, Dooryard Plantain, Greater Plantago, Healing Blade, Hen Plant, Lambs Foot, Roadweed, Roundleaf Plantain, Snakeroot, Waybread, Wayside Plantain, andWhite Man's Foot Prints. -- Britton, Nathaniel Lord; Addison Brown (1913). An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada, Volume 3 (second edition ed.). Dover Publications, inc. p. 245. 
  6. ^ Joint Nature Conservation Committee: Greater Plantain Plantago major Linnaeus
  7. ^ Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland Database
  8. ^ a b c Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2[page needed]
  9. ^ Sauer,Leslie Jones (1998). The Once and Future Forest. Island Press. p. 49. ISBN 1-55963-553-3. [verification needed]
  10. ^ a b Samuelsen, Anne Berit (July 2000). "The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 77 (1-2): 1. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00212-9. ISSN 0378-8741. 
  11. ^ Duke, James (2001). Handbook of Edible Weeds. CRC Press. p. 150. ISBN 9780849329463. 
  12. ^ Tilford, Gregory L. & Gladstar, Rosemary (1998). From Earth to Herbalist: An Earth-Conscious Guide to Medicinal Plants. Mountain Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780878423729. 
  13. ^ Scott, Timothy Lee & Buhner, Steven Harrod (2010). Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. p. 253. ISBN 9781594773051. 
  14. ^ Vizgirdas, Ray S. & Rey-Vizgirdas, Edna (2005). Wild Plants Of The Sierra Nevada. University of Nevada Press. pp. 148–149. ISBN 9780874175356. 
  15. ^ Green, James (2000). The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual. Chelsea Green Publishing. pp. 314–315. ISBN 9780895949905. 
  16. ^ Duke, James A. (2001). "Plantago major". Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. CRC Press. p. 471. ISBN 9780849338656. 
  17. ^ Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (2005). A Guide to Medicinal Plants in North Africa. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). p. 190. ISBN 9782831708935. 
  18. ^ Duke, James (2001). Handbook of Edible Weeds. CRC Press. p. 151. ISBN 9780849329463. 
  19. ^ Foster, Steven & Hobbs, Christopher (2002). A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 224. ISBN 9780395838068. 
  20. ^ U.S. Department of Defense (June 1999). FM 21-76-1: Survival, Evasion, and Recovery: Multiservice Procedures. Air Land Sea Application Center. p. V-16. 
  21. ^ Tilford, Gregory L. & Gladstar, Rosemary (1998). From Earth to Herbalist: An Earth-Conscious Guide to Medicinal Plants. Mountain Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780878423729. 
  22. ^ Meuninck, Jim (2008). Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide. Globe Pequot. p. 9. ISBN 9780762742981. 
  23. ^ Tilford, Gregory L. (1997). Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Mountain Press. p. 112. ISBN 9780878423590. 
  24. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. ISBN 0-333-47494-5

Further reading[edit]

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Notes

Common Names

FG Creole: plantain.

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An undetermined French Guiana species of Plantago provides leaves which are dried and made into an infusion for washing bruised eyes. The Tikuna of Colombia use the leaves as an ingredient for a fever and bronchitis remedy.

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Comments

Leaves are cooling, alternative and diuretic.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Several varieties were recognized by Kartesz (1994) but these are all considered synonyms only by Kartesz (1999).

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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