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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Broadleaf plantain  (Plantago major)

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Life stages of Broadleaf plantain seedlings leaves flower seeds rosette

Broadleaf plantain is a perennial broadleaf plant that infrequently behaves as an annual or biennial. Members of the plantain family have basal rosettes of leaves and leafless spikes of inconspicuous flowers. It is found throughout California to 7200 feet (2200 m), except for the Sierra Nevada region and deserts. Like many weeds it inhabits disturbed areas such as agricultural land and other disturbed places.


Vineyards, orchards, gardens, urban sites, landscaped areas, footpaths, roadsides, and other disturbed locations. It can be found it compacted and soggy sites where other plants may not thrive.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are oblong with a base that abruptly narrows to a winged stalk. The first and next few leaves are football shaped, usually 3/11 to over 3/4 of an inch (7–20 mm) in length, with a base that tapers abruptly into a stalk.

Mature plant

Leaves spiral on a very short, weakly woody (in perennial plants) stem. Leaves are broadly lance shaped to egg shaped, hairless or sparsely short haired. Roughly 2 to 7 inches (5–18 cm) long, leaves have five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base. Roots are fibrous and shallow. Broadleaf plantain can be distinguished from buckhorn plantain, Plantago lanceolata, by its broader leaf and longer flower head spikes.


Flowering takes place from April through September. Flower heads consist of leafless, slender spikes of inconspicuous flowers clustered densely along an upright flowering head, usually 1-1/5 to 8 inches (3–20 cm) tall, excluding the stalk. The individual flowers have protruding narrow, white stamens (male part of flower).


Fruits consist of egg-shaped capsules about 1/10 to 1/5 of an inch (3–5 mm) long that open horizontally around the middle, similar to a cap or a lid of a container, to release five to sixteen seeds per capsule.


Seeds are tiny 1/50 to 1/25 of an inch (0.5–1 mm) long, oval to irregularly angled, or triangular, orange to black and dull, with a finely textured surface.


Reproduces by seed.

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