Plantago eriopoda (Alkali Plantain)

Plant Info
Also known as: Red-wool Plantain, Woolly-crowned Plantain
Genus:Plantago
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:sun; moist, alkaline or saline soil; marshes, prairies, plains
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:6 to 18 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of spikes] A single, slender, cylindrical spike 1 to 6 inches long at the end of a long, leafless stem rising well above the leaves. Flowers are densely packed, sometimes just at the tip of the spike and more loosely arranged below, the lowest flowers usually the most separated from the rest.

[photo of flowers] Flowers are purplish and 4-petaled, but inconspicuous except for the long stamens with large purplish tips (anthers) and long, feathery styles. The calyx is oval-elliptic, hairless, light green to purplish. Spent flowers and sepals turn papery brown.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, erect to prostrate, thick and leathery, few to many, narrowly lance-elliptic, 3 to 12 inches long and ½ to 1½ inches wide, pointed at the tip, tapering to a broad stalk tinged purplish red at the base, and with 5 to 9 distinct veins. Edges are toothless except sometimes for a few small teeth around the tip, and are often a bit wavy. Surfaces are usually hairless, sometimes variously covered in spreading, white hairs.

[photo of stem hairs] Flowering stems are single or multiple from the base, round in cross-section, green to reddish, variously covered in long, white hairs. Old leaf bases persist, usually with tufts of long, rusty brown, woolly hairs among them.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruits are light brown, rounded, oval capsules about 1/8 inch long with 2 brown seeds inside. The top of the capsule opens like a lid, splitting along a seam in the lower half.

Notes:

Alkali Plantain reaches the eastern edge of its range in Minnesota, where it is found primarily in prairie swales and wet meadows with alkaline or saline soil. The leaves are very much like the weedy, non-native English Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), which has a grooved stem and a much shorter and more densely flowered spike, which blooms from the bottom up, and is more likely found along roadsides, waste areas, and soils disturbed by human activity.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Kittson and Pennington counties.

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