Plantago rugelii (Rugel's Plantain)

Plant Info
Also known as: Black-seed Plantain
Genus:Plantago
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist woods, meadows, fields, lawns, stream banks, waste areas
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU 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: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of magnified flower] 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: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruits are elliptical capsules that are 2 or 3 times as long as wide, up 3/16 inch long with dark brown to black seeds inside. The capsule splits open below the middle.

Notes:

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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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.

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