Plantain (Plantago Spp)

P. lanceolata. Photo: (c) Harry Rose CC BY 2.0

Family: Plantaginaceae

Growth Habit: Plantains are common weeds throughout Tasmania. There are 17 Plantain species in Tasmania, of which four are introduced. The most common species is Plantago lanceolata (described here).

The plant has hairy leaves that are held above the ground, but all arise in a rosette. The leaves are 7-20cm long, 1-4 cm wide, have about 5 main veins and are on long petioles (3-15 cm long).

Type of Plant: A low growing perennial rosette herb.

Flowers: Tiny flowers clustered into dense spikes on the ends of elongate, leafless stalks (scapes). In most cases the spikes contain many flowers, but in one or two species there are only a few flowers. The flowers grow in tight clusters which are 1 to 2.5cm long. Individual flowers are quite small and insignificant.

Fruit/Seed: Seeds are black to brown in colour. Germination occurs autumn to winter.

Dispersal: Seeds fall from the seed head and may be carried short distances on wind. Soil and water movement may move them further from the parent plant.

Distribution: Plantain can be found in lawns, gardens, most pastures and virtually all roadsides.

Narrow-leaf Plantain – P. lanceolata

  • Found throughout the state, most common of the introduced Plantains.
  • The distinctive feature is that the inflorescence stalk (the peduncle) is ribbed.

Buckshorn Plantain – P. coronopus

  • Found throughout the state, most common along coastal areas.
  • This plant is useful as a salinity indicator.

Giant Plantain – P. major 

  • Found principally in the north and south of the State and is less common in the Tasmanian Midlands.
  • Entirely restricted to damp areas.
  • The leaves are generally held flat to the ground in a rosette, and are 5-20 cm long but relatively broad (2-10 cm wide).

Status: Undeclared in Tasmania.

Weed Impact:

  • Plantain may contribute to hayfever.
  • Infestations can become quite dense in run down lawns and pastures, excluding desirable grasses.
  • Some biodynamic farmers promote plantains as a deep-rooted supplement to traditional pasture species as they can access nutrients deeper in the soil than most grasses.

For further information contact the Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment, Tasmania.

Control Methods:

  • Grubbing (all year). Ensure entire plant is removed especially the long taproot.
  • Cultivation (all year). Breaks up plantain clumps. Follow up with establishment of a competitive pasture or crop.
  • Herbicide (spring, summer and autumn). Herbicides registered in Tasmania include dicamba, MCPA, glyphosate, 2,4-DB and 2,4-D.

N.B. Always check the herbicide label before use.