Arnoglossum reniforme (Great Indian Plantain)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Threatened
Habitat:part shade, sun; floodplain forest, open woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:3 to 9 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Numerous stalked flower heads in flat-topped branching clusters, 5 to 12 inches across, at the tip of the stem and upper leaf axils. Flower heads are 1/6 to ¼ inch across, made up of about 5 greenish to white disk flowers, each with 5 tightly curled petals. Brown columns of yellow-tipped stamens and brown styles with split tips project well above the petals.

[photo of bracts and cluster] Below the flowers is a cylindrical tube, 1/3 to ½ inch long, of 5 greenish-white, rounded, oblong bracts. Cluster stalks are light green, hairless with longitudinal ridges and typically have 1 to 3 minute, scale-like bracts at the base.

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

[photo of basal leaves] Leaves are simple, thin, green on both sides and hairless. Basal leaves are mostly broadly kidney-shaped, to 15 inches wide, shallowly lobed or toothed around the edges, with 3 to 5 main veins and stalks up to 11½ inches long.

[photo of stem leaves] Stem leaves become smaller and shorter stalked as they ascend the stem, more broadly egg-shaped in outline, typically with deeper, pointed lobes at the main veins and coarsely toothed around the edges. The stem is erect, unbranched, hairless, angled and grooved, often deep purple red.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a small, dark brown to purple, bullet shaped seed (achene) with a tuft of spreading white hairs at the tip.


Great Indian Plantain habitat is woodland margins and openings along floodplain terraces associated with dolomitic bedrock. Tracked by the MN-DNR since 1980, botanical surveys found only a few, small populations in our southeastern most counties, but mention that in 2010 a private landowner uncovered hundreds of plants after clearing buckthorn and box elder from his land in Mower County—good for him! Because the continuing loss of its habitat to agriculture, urbanization, damming and channeling of rivers poses an eminent threat to the species, it was listed as a state Threatened species in 2013. In older references, this species is known as Cacalia reniformis or sometimes Arnoglossum muehlenbergii (Cacalia muehlenbergii). A very similar species is Pale Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium), which is not known to occur in Minnesota but is present in eastern Wisconsin and is sometimes found in restoration plantings. Its stem is not angled, and leaves are very pale on the underside and more triangular in outline than those of A. reniforme.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, Winona County, and in his backyard garden in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Geri - Rural Mapleton, MN
on: 2015-08-08 19:21:06

Two years ago I started this MN native from seed purchased from Prairie Moon nursery and it is a show stopper in my native plant garden. It has not reseeded.

Posted by: Steve - Mower county
on: 2016-06-17 10:46:58

The Great Indian Plantain is now blooming on our farm in Mower County. 6-17-2016

Posted by: BILL C - WINONA
on: 2017-05-25 11:23:13

This species was planted on our valley farm about 20 years ago. It is spreading slowly but steadily from seed. A neighbor in an adjoining valley has a field full of it.

Posted by: Kenny h - On a tributary of the Rose Creek, near shooting star trail
on: 2017-06-14 16:04:28

Only 2 plants growing next to creek bank...just starting to bloom.

Posted by: Nancy B - Carleton Arboretum, Rice County
on: 2017-08-09 15:41:33

We have been finding the similar species, Pale Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium) moving out of landscape plantings and into prairie restorations at the Carleton College Cowling Arboretum.

Posted by: Sharon K - Big Lake
on: 2017-08-21 12:45:18

We have many Great Indian Plantain blooming in our Minnesota native wildflower and grasses prairie area. We purchased seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery. They are lovely tall and stately. They are seeding themselves because we have more and more each year.

Posted by: Joe Janssen - Minnetonka
on: 2018-08-07 13:25:45

I have a large number of plants in my native garden next to wet lands. They have been growing and spreading since I planted in 2000.

Posted by: Steve Kampa - Mendota Heights
on: 2019-06-20 21:24:11

Got some from Prarie Moon and they have been slowly reseeding themselves. I have about 6 plant clumps.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-06-21 06:38:36

Steve, this species can be a very prolific reseeder. You may only have a few clumps now but expect that to grow significantly.

Posted by: Kevin Halling - Rochester
on: 2019-07-09 22:28:34

I saw a few of these at Root River county park in Olmsted County. They were in floodplain habitat with dolomitic cliffs along the river.

Posted by: Carole Gernes - Maplewood
on: 2019-08-27 13:23:50

Maplewood Nature Center and Fish Creek Regional Park; Ramsey Co. MN.

Posted by: Pamela Freeman - Oak Grove, Anoka County
on: 2020-08-31 16:13:10

My ex-husband and I have this, well, he has it now, at our place in Oak Grove. Found it along one of our trails in the flood plain of Cedar Creek on our property. I have been trying to figure out what it is or was. Spectacular plant!

Posted by: Patrick Kenneally - Wyoming, Minnesota back yard
on: 2021-05-07 13:00:32

I planted several plants about 15 years ago, now have over fifty plants and spreading next to our pond. Very spectacular with 8-9 foot flower stalks in August.

Posted by: Andrea Carter - Minneapolis
on: 2021-06-13 09:10:33

There are a few of these plants growing wild in my alley in the city.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-13 10:51:25

Andrea, if that is true then they escaped from a garden somewhere in the vicinity. This plant is a prolific seed producer.

Posted by: MJ Hatfield - Just south of Harmony into Iowa
on: 2022-11-29 22:17:11

In your photo of basal leaves, the leaf mines are made by the larvae of Phyllocnistis insignis.

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