Plantago rugelii (Rugel's Plantain)
|Also known as:||Black-seed Plantain|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist woods, meadows, fields, lawns, stream banks, waste areas|
|Bloom season:||June - October|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Pencil-thin spike at the top of a naked stem. Flowers are inconspicuous but for the extended stamens and filament-like styles, densely arranged along a tall, narrow, green spike. The 4 triangular petals are cellophane white, tightly folded back at the tip of the larger oval-elliptic calyx. 4 thick, lance-like green sepals and a smaller keel-like bract are at the base. A plant typically has several flowering stems, sprouting up in succession.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves form a large basal rosette, mature leaves up to 14 inches long including the stalk, the blade broadly oval, to 7½ inches long and 5½ inches wide. The thick stalk can be ½ inch in diameter at the base and pigmented a deep purple red. Surfaces are leathery and hairless, the edges wavy, toothless or irregularly toothed. There are up to 7 conspicuous palmate veins on the lower surface. Flowering stems are hairless and mostly erect.
Rugel's Plantain can be a persistent lawn weed and seems to flourish in compacted soils like found along hiking trails in parks and along driveways. Almost universally referenced in lawn and garden publications as Common Plantain (Plantago major), an introduced European species, I was surprised to discover that the native P. rugelii is just as weedy and far more common and widespread in many areas than the non-native. While the native plantain ultimately gets much larger than the non-native, at a casual glance, the two look nearly identical, especially under repeated mowing that limits maturation size. The easiest way to distinguish the two is from the dark red/purple at the base of the leaf stalk of the native (green on the non-native) and also from its elongated seed capsules as compared to the nearly egg-shaped capsules of the non-native species. Also of note are the young leaves of the native have a very pleated appearance as they emerge from the basal rosette. Leaves of both P. major and P. rugelii are edible, cooked or as salad greens.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Rugel's Plantain plant in a no-mow area
- Rugel's Plantain, mowed area habitat
- more plants
- fruit comparison of Plantago rugelii and Plantago major
- basal rosette comparison of Plantago rugelii and Plantago major
- root comparison of Plantago rugelii and Plantago major
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?