Plantago patagonica (Woolly Plantain)

Plant Info
Also known as: Pursh's Plantain
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; dry, sandy or rocky soil; roadsides, railroads, fields, prairies, outcrops, bluffs, gravel pits, waste areas
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:2 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status: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 flowers] Pencil-thin spike ½ to 5 inches long at the end of a densely hairy but otherwise naked stem. Flowers are greenish-white with 4 spreading, egg-shaped to triangular petals often rusty brown at the base; yellow stamens are barely visible in the center. The calyx around the base of the flower is densely hairy and less than ¼ inch long. Subtending each flower is narrow, leaf-like bract about ¼ inch long, densely covered in long, white hairs. A plant typically has several flowering stems, sprouting up in succession.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, spreading to nearly erect, up to 6 inches long and ¼ inch or less wide, linear to lance-linear, toothless, stalkless, and densely covered in long, white hairs. Flowering stems are multiple from the base, erect and densely hairy.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruits are rounded, egg shaped capsules about 1/8 inch long with 2 reddish to brown seeds inside. The capsule splits open around the middle, the top coming off like a cap.


Native to western North America, Woolly Plantain is considered by some to be adventive from Minnesota eastward but we're inclined to think Minnesota is at the eastern edge of its natural range. The DNR also lists 2 varieties in the state (vars. patagonica and spinulosa), but all of our available references call them synonyms of the same species, so we're going with the flow on that, too. Woolly Plantain is commonly found along roadsides and railroads, but also in higher grade prairie habitat. The densely hairy spikes and hairy, narrow leaves make it easy to distinguish from other Plantago species.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Washington County.


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

Posted by: Kristin W - SAINT PAUL
on: 2017-06-07 19:47:52

wooly plantain with short spikes -- looks so different -- are you sure this is the same?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-06-08 14:03:55

Kristin, spike length and plant height are variable. They are particularly small in early June.

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2020-01-16 10:09:27

Saw a few of these in my driveway last summer.

Posted by: Pat W - Pillager area, near the rr track
on: 2021-03-08 18:13:47

Saw these a few years ago but then never found them again. I didn't know they were annual. Thanks Katy.

Posted by: Craig Reller - Hastings
on: 2022-07-03 15:23:35

In the North Unit of Sand Coulee in Hastings.

Posted by: Emily - HASTINGS - Sand Coulee
on: 2022-07-03 15:25:03

These are all over the trail in the Northern unit of Sand Coulee

Posted by: gary - Moose Lake in Charlton County
on: 2022-08-03 08:32:51

Along the Munger Trail.

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