Plantago elongata (Slender Plantain)

Plant Info
Also known as: Prairie Plantain
Genus:Plantago
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Threatened
Habitat:sun; saline or alkaline soil; vernal pools in rock outcrops, muddy seeps, wet meadows
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:1 to 7 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: none
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 Cluster type: spike

[photo of flower] Slender spike up to 2 inches long at the end of a hairy but otherwise naked stem. Flowers are minute, and largely inconspicuous but for the extended pair of purplish-tipped stamens and filament-like styles, densely arranged along a narrow, green spike. The 4 triangular to egg-shaped petals are papery, white to tinged purple, spreading or reflexed back at the tip of the larger egg-shaped calyx. Thick, green, hairless, lance-oval shaped sepals and a similar sized 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 and stem] Leaves are all basal, erect to ascending, linear to thread-like, ½ to 2¾ inches long, less than 1/10 inch wide, toothless, hairless, and pointed at the tip. Stems are slender, erect, usually multiple from the base, covered in long white hairs that are typically matted or curled, more densely hairy just below the flowering spike.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an oval capsule about 1/8 inch long and longer than the sepals. Inside are 4 to 9 brown to black seeds.

Notes:

A rare species in Minnesota, Slender Plaintain reaches the eastern edge of its range in our extreme southwest counties. According to the DNR, it was first recorded in 1931 and only 3 locations were known until biological surveys in the southwest counties in 2006-2008 discovered 7 new, and rather sizable, populations. In Minnesota it is largely restricted to vernal pools and seeps in rock outcrops, and was listed as a Threatened species in 1984, considered at risk from over-grazing and from gravel mining. It was downgraded to Special Concern in 2013, considering the size of the newly found populations, and after determining it tolerated grazing better than previously thought. Slender Plantain's specialized habitat, linear and hairless leaves, hairy stems, and diminutive size make it distinct from other Plantago species in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in North Dakota.

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