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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Plantains - Broad-leaved/Narrow-leaved

There are 2 types of plantains found in Ontario: broad-leaved and narrow-leaved.

Scientific Names: Broad-leaved plantain, Plantago major L., Narrow-leaved plantain, Plantago lanceolata L.,

Other Names

Broad-leaved Plantain Narrow-leaved Plantain
  • Plantain majeur
  • Common plantain
  • Doorweed
  • Dooryard plantain
  • Plantain
  • Whiteman’s-foot
  • Grand plantain
  • Plantain lancéolé
  • Buckhorn plantain
  • English plantain
  • Ribgrass
  • Plantain à feuilles lancéolées
  • Herbe à cinq coutures

Family: Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae)

General Description: Perennial, reproducing only by seed.

Habitat: Plantains are very common in Ontario occurring in cultivated land, pastures, meadows, waste places, roadsides, lawns and gardens.



  • Root system thick and fibrous


Broad-leaved Plantain Narrow-leaved Plantain
  • Leaves all in a basal rosette
  • Oval or elliptic
  • 5- 30 cm (2- 12 in.) long
  • The blade about as long as its thick green stalk
  • Smooth or somewhat rough-hairy
  • 3 to several prominent veins radiating from the leafstalk towards the tip
  • Margins smooth or irregularly toothed
  • Leaves all in a basal rosette
  • Long and narrow
  • Very prominent, almost parallel veins or ribs which run the length of the leaf
  • Sometimes the blade being strongly folded lengthwise along each rib


Broad-leaved Plantain Narrow-leaved Plantain
  • In compact spikes on erect, leafless stalks from among the basal leaves
  • Each spike about the size and shape of a lead pencil but consisting of many, tiny, stalkless, greenish flowers giving it a coarsely granular texture
  • Each flower 2- 3 mm (1/12- 1/8 in.) across
  • 4 petals
  • 4 sepals
  • 2 stamens
  • 1 pistil
  • Egg-shaped seedpod developing beneath the withering flower
  • Mature seedpod splitting apart with a circular facture around its middle and release 5- 16 dark brown or nearly black angular seeds, each about 1 mm (1/25 in.) long
  • Flowers and sets seed from spring until late autumn
  • Very short, compact, somewhat oval spike of tiny flowers at the ends of long, thin, leafless stems
  • At flowering, the spike surrounded by a halo of anthers at the ends of long thin stamens protruding from the flowers
  • Seedpod contains only 1 or 2 seeds, each about 3 mm (1/8 in.) long
  • Flowers from spring until late autumn

Often Confused With
Blackseed Plantain (Blackseed plantain often is red in colour at the base of the petiole)

Broad-leaved plantain Broad-leaved plantain Broad-leaved plantain Narrow-leaved plantain Narrow-leaved plantain Narrow-leaved plantainClick to enlarge.