Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

English Plantain

These ubiquitous weeds are found in every lawn, in sidewalk cracks, along the edge of the street, and anywhere else they can gain a foothold; these particular plants were growing along the roadside in Highland Park, where they were blooming in the middle of June. They are actually relatives (according to modern genetic studies) of our garden snapdragons, to which, however, they bear little superficial resemblance. The unmistakable flower heads look like some imaginative artist’s conception of plant life on another planet. A tea made from the leaves supposedly has benefit against coughs, but as with all herbal medicines that have not been adequately studied, one must place a heavy emphasis on the word “supposedly.”

Gray describes the genus and the species:

PLANTÀGO [Tourn.] L. PLANTAIN, RIBWORT. Calyx of 4 imbricated persistent sepals, mostly with dry membranaceous margins. Corolla salver-form or rotate, withering on the pod, the border 4- parted. Stamens 4, or rarely 2, in all or some flowers with long and weak exserted filaments, and fugacious 2-celled anthers. Ovary 2 (or in P. decipiens falsely 3-4)-celled, with 1-several ovules in each cell. Style and long hairy stigma single, filiform. Capsule 2-celled, 2-several-seeded, opening transversely, во that the top falls off like a lid and the loose partition (which bears the peltate seeds) falls away. Embryo straight, in fleshy albumen. — Leaves ribbed. Flowers whitish, small, in a bracted spike or head, raised on a naked scape. (The Latin name.)

P. lanceolàta, L. (RIB GRASS, RIPPLE GRASS, ENGLISH P.) Mostly hairy; scape grooved-angled, at length much longer than the lanceolate or lance-oblong leaves, slender, 2-7 dm. high; spike dense, at first capitate, in age cylindrical; bracts and sepals scarious, brownish ; seeds 2, hollowed on the face. — Very common in grass land. (Nat. from Eu.)

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