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PlantFiles: Plantain, Rat's Tails, Travellers Foot, Waybread, Cuckoo's Bread
Plantago major

Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Plantago (plan-TA-go) (Info)
Species: major (MAY-jor) (Info)

12 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)
8.6 to 9.0 (strongly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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There are a total of 9 photos.
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1 positive
2 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative scubamom On Aug 7, 2012, scubamom from Gregory, TX wrote:

This awful little weed has sprung up everywhere in our Canyon Lake Texas yard! The spikes produce what seems like millions of tiny sticky burrs that attach to everything - socks, slacks, dogs, cats, fabric of any kind, and is almost impossible to remove. No wonder they came over from Europe - probably attached themselves to everything the people brought with them.

We are planting a ton of wildflower seed this fall in hopes that they might get a head start on this weed and snuff it out. At least I've read that it might be the only way to eliminate them. Will report back next spring!

Negative RosemaryA On Aug 4, 2008, RosemaryA from Toronto, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

I was surprised to read that some people actually grow this plant on purpose.

Here in Toronto it is a widespread weed, which will outcompete grass and take over a lawn if not checked. The coarse leaves and uninteresting brownish-greenish flower spikes are an unattractive addition to a lawn (in my opinion) and the flower spikes are rigid enough that they aren't pleasing to walk on barefoot (again in my opinion).

Positive kryistina On Jun 22, 2008, kryistina from Springfield, MO wrote:

Very tasty in salads in early spring, and cooked or in stews later in the season and throughout summer. Makes a great pot herb as well, high in nutrients.

Needs very little care or watering, poultice is great on stings and bites, and seeds are high in fiber and good added to flours. Is simple to propagate with seed or root.

Neutral htop On May 18, 2007, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant may cause hay fever in some indivdual's. Its seeds are sometimes used in birdseed.

Neutral Baa On Sep 21, 2001, Baa wrote:

A tough perennial with a deep tap root found in the Northern Hemisphere but native to Europe. North American Indians called it White Man's Foot since it seemed to grow everywhere the English settlers went and has settled where ever the English went in the world carried in the cereal seed.

Has broad, ovate, leathery, slightly ribbed, mid green leaves which grow in flat rosettes. Bears tall spikes of tiny green flowers, spikes can reach up to 20 inches long looks similar to a minature bull rush.

Flowers June-September.

Like a lime rich, well drained soil in sun or partial shade but isn't fussy at all. Prefers lawn areas but will grow practically anywhere you don't want it to.

Not something you would normally want to grow, many people spend an awful lot of time trying to extricate it from their carefully tended lawn. Yet this tough little plant has a long history and has been proved very useful.

Culpepper stated 'There is not any martial disease that it does not cure.' It's main use was in a poultice for wounds and bruises and can be used very effectively on horses too.

It was used as a love diviner, the leaves were collected by young (and older) ladies and placed under the pillow to ensure they dream of their future husband.

Pieces of root were carried in pockets to prevent snakebites, it doesn't work unless there are no snakes about, then it is effective. However, plantain tea was used as a cure for snakebite (for those who had forgotten to take their root with them).

Diseases it was said to have cured are: dropsy, stomach pains, kidney and bladder disease among many others. Backache, eczema, burns, scales, piles and ulcers were also treated with plantain.

Today you might find it in a herbalist shop for asthma, digestive problems and bronchitis as well as for open wounds and bruises.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Pelham, Alabama
Aurora, Colorado
Benton, Kentucky
Melbourne, Kentucky
Saint Hilaire, Minnesota
Springfield, Missouri
Brooklyn, New York
Ogdensburg, New York
Belfield, North Dakota
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Spring Branch, Texas
Kennewick, Washington

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