Common Plantain

(Plantago Major)

Liz Nunn © 2011

USDA, NRCS 2011 The PLANTS Database (, 21 October 2011)
National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Common Plantain (Plantago Major):

Buckhorn, Chimney-Sweeps, English Plantain, Greater Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, Rib Grass, Ribwort, Soldier's Herb


  Recognized by the large radial rosette of mostly hairless leaves, with long slender flowered spikes reaching a height of up to 2 feet. Leaves or oval shaped long and range from 2 to 12 inches long and 4 inches wide, with 3 to 5 ribs with smooth edges. The green, pencil-shaped flower stalks occur from spring to fall


  Found beginning in the Spring and occurring through the Fall at the top of one of many green leafless stalks. Flowers numerous but small ranging from 1/32 to 1/8 in diameter, with very small bell shaped petals. Flowers are purple tinted green to white, fading to brown with age.


  Oval shaped 2 celled pod that splits to reveal 5 to 30 seeds. These seeds are small ranging from dark brown to black


  Has a short rhizome, with a thick yellow root stalk with extensive fibrous roots. Roots can spread to an area of up to 3 feet.


  •  The green fruit tastes much like a bland peanut

  •  Immature leaves are eaten raw in early spring as any other green

  •  Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, taste is rather bitter. Leave stems should be removed. Leaves can tenderized by blanching before eating.

  •  Dried seeds are ground to make a meal

  •  The green, oblong fruits taste like inferior peanuts

  •  Once the seed head dries seeds are used as thickener

  •  Whole seeds can be boiled and used same as a hot cereal

  •  Dried leaves can be used as a tea


  Plantain in the colonial days was known as one of the essential herbal ingredients in early medicines. It is a known diuretic, astringent and deobstruent, reducing swelling and itching.

  •  Applied directly to open wound a poultice of the leaves is of some value in stopping bleeding.

  •  Provides relief when leaves are rubbed on insects stings.

  •  Provides relief when leaves are applied to burns

  •  Poultice of the leaves and salt applied directly to from venomous snake bites

  •  A power made of the dried leaves mixed with water used to destroy worms

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