Types of plantain weeds

Broadleaf Plantain Control: How to Get Rid of Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf plantain is a perennial weed, which means it can be a problem that will continue to torment you and your lawn year after year. It characteristics are broad, oval-shaped leaves (unlike buckhorn plantain, which has long, narrow leaves) and, in the spring, tall flower spikes grow boldly towards the sky from the plant’s center.

Broadleaf plantain doesn’t discriminate when it comes to where it will puts down roots as you are likely to find it between cracks in the sidewalk, along roadsides, in park areas, and in lawns or grassy areas that are not well-maintained. What’s even worse is that broadleaf plantains will grow without warning and take over both sunny and shady spots (though the plant appears to have a preference for moist shade).

While plantains can be dug out of soil as part of a treatment program to remove the weed from your yard, the task of carrying that out–especially if you have a sizable outbreak–can be a chore. The easier route to take is to treat the weed with herbicides. Our step-by-step DIY guide will show you exactly what you need to kill broadleaf plantain and rid it from your yard while also saving money.


Broadleaf plantain has a single short, thick taproot with large oval-shaped leaves that lie flat to the ground. The leaves have three to five prominent stringlike veins. It’s petite green flowers grow on compact spikes appearing on leafless stalks that grow from its base. The leaves can be hairy and they can also have seed heads which are distinctive and spring out from the center of the large leaves.

Use the above description and image to help you to identify the invasive plant you are dealing with and confirm that its broadleaf plantain. If you are unsure, you can always contact us and our lawn care experts will help to correctly ID the plant and suggest treatment options.


Where to Inspect

If you have broadleaf plantain, inspection will be pretty simple because they clearly stick out on your lawn amongst your desired grass and vegetation. Broadleaf plantain is a creeping spreading perennial weed that can cover large areas over a short period of time. It grows from spring to autumn in almost any condition dry or wet, in heavy soils and at very low mowing heights.

What to Look For

Broadleaf plantain has dark green, egg-shaped leaves that grow low to the ground.


Before using any herbicide product, make sure you first have on the proper PPE for safety (gloves, glasses, mask).

Since handpicking these weeds is not usually effective the best approach is the use of herbicides. Broadleaf weed killer such as Glyphosate 4 Plus Weed Killer Concentrate or SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide do a great job of controlling broadleaf plantain, with the product going down into the root system to kill the entire plant. Another great option is a three way herbicide such as 2 4-D Amine Selective Weed Killer. You can also choose to put down a pre-emergent like Isoxaben 75WG to keep the broadleaf plantain from rearing it’s ugly head during its growing season.

Step 1- Mix Herbicide and Apply To Treatment Area

Lightly spray herbicide mixture just on the top of the leaf surface, being careful of wind drift. Avoid spraying areas where ornamental plants would be contacted. Move around and spot treat the areas where you see broadleaf plantain.

Step 2 – Follow Up Application

Broadleaf plantain is a stubborn weed so you may have to conduct repeat applications every 10 days or so of the herbicide you selected to get complete control. Be sure to read and follow label directions so you get the proper application and mixing rates. Best case scenario, a single application of one of the weed killers we suggested in the spring or fall will control plantain and other broadleaf weeds, roots and all. Make sure to spot spray rather than do a broadcast application of your entire yard.


The best defense against beggarweed is a thick lush lawn that is properly maintained and well-fed. A thick dense lawn that is well-fertilized will be better able to choke out broadleaf plantain weeds and not allow them room to establish.

  • Mowing regularly at the right height for your grass type
  • Watering your grass deeply yet infrequently
  • Fertilize your lawn so it doesn’t have a deficiency.
  • Choose a turfgrass that can prevent weeds.

Key Takeaways

  • Broadleaf plantain is a perennial broadleaf weed which can be distinguish by its short, thick tap roots and leaves which grow in a rosette.
  • We recommend Glyphosate or Speedzone to treat Broadleaf plantain as these products are systemic and will kill the plant all the way down to the root.
  • For best results, you need to use our professional herbicide recommendations. Mixing a small dosage with water will yield a lot more product and will last you much longer than weaker branded box store weed killers.

Broadleaf plantain

Plantain is a perennial plant. There are two common species of plantain—the broadleaf plantain and the buckthorn plantain.

Description and Lifecycle:

  • Broadleaf plantain has 4- to 6-inch long leaves.
  • Buckthorn plantain has dull green leaves to 9 inches long, 1½ inches wide, form in basal rosette.
  • Leaves can be spreading or erect with 3 to 5 prominent veins
  • Flower stalks grow from 8 inches to 2½ feet tall; they are erect and leafless,
  • Cylindrical flower spires; flowers tiny and numerous
  • Seed capsule grow in rows along the spike.
  • Blooms late spring to fall.
  • Reproduces by seeds; from roots when plant is stressed.
  • Prefers rich, moist soils that are compacted and dense.

Root System: Plantain has a fibrous root system reaching to a depth of about 18 inches. The root system is fairly weak. Buds grow from the uppermost part of the root to create the plant crown. The crown can re-generate new plants even when cut below the soil surface.

Organic Control:

  • Dig up plant root and all using a forked dandelion weeder.
  • Remove all of root; the plant can regrow from pieces of fibrous rootstock left behind.
  • Do not let plantains flowers and drop seed.

Range: Throughout the United State and southern Canada.

Botanical Name: Plantago major (broadleaf plantain); Plantago lanceolate (buckthorn plantain)

Four Quick Ways to Control Weeds:

  1. Weed early. Control weeds in the first month after they germinate.
  2. Weed often. Hand weed every two weeks through the season.
  3. Weed by hand when the soil is wet (best to get roots).
  4. Use a hoe if the soil is dry. Decapitate weeds before they flower and drop seed.

Plantain Control – How To Eliminate The Weed Plantain From Your Lawn

Plantains are unsightly lawn weeds that thrive in compacted soil and neglected lawns. Plantain weed treatment consists of diligently digging out the plants as they appear and treating the plants with herbicides. Since weed plantain thrives in poorly established lawns, the best prevention is a healthy lawn. Keep reading to learn more about plantain control.

Broadleaf and Narrow Leaf Plantains

The two types of plantains that are commonly found in lawns are broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) and narrow-leaf, or buckhorn plant (P. lanceolata). These two perennial weeds are easily differentiated by their leaves.

Broadleaf plantains have smooth, oval leaves while buckhorn plantain has ribbed, lance-shaped leaves. Both types are found throughout the U.S. where they thrive in compacted soil.

Preventing Plantain Lawn Weeds

The best way to prevent plantains in the lawn is to keep the soil aerated and healthy. Aerate compacted soil and follow a regular schedule of fertilization at least twice a year. Water the lawn deeply when there is less than an inch of rainfall in a week. A healthy lawn crowds out plantains, but the plantains crowd out the grass when the lawn is in poor condition.

Plantain weeds also contaminate mowers and other equipment used on the lawn. Clean your equipment thoroughly before using it again to prevent the spread of planting lawn weeds.

Plantain Weed Treatment

Plantain control can be achieved by pulling or digging the plants as they emerge when the infested area is small. This is easiest in sandy soil or soil that has been softened by rain or irrigation. You may have to dig and pull the plants in the area several times before achieving complete control. The weeds must be removed before they have a chance to produce seeds.

When large numbers of the weeds are present, plantain lawn weeds are best controlled with herbicides. Choose a post-emergent herbicide labeled for plantain control. Post-emergent herbicides are most effective against plantains in fall when the plants are moving carbohydrates to the roots for winter storage. You can also apply the herbicides in spring.

Carefully follow the label instructions regarding mixing, timing and application procedures. Avoid spraying when temperatures are above 85 degrees F. (29 C.) and on windy days. Store any unused portions of the herbicide in the original container and out of the reach of children.

Botanical name: Plantago major
Family: Plantaginaceae

General information: Greater plantain or broad leaf plantain as it is often referred to, is a very common weed that frequently inhabits lawns and turf, especially heavily used areas that are suffering from soil compaction.

This perennial plant forms as a flat rosette that can easily tolerate close mowing, making it particularly troublesome in fine turf.

This turf weed spreads by seed and anchors itself to the ground with a fibrous but shallow root system. It is very common on compacted ground where grass growth is thin and sparse due to a lack of aeration.

It is rarely found on very wet or shaded sites. Greater plantain can withstand constant disturbance, often caused by traffic such as trampling or mowing.

Greater plantain has many medicinal uses, often used to heal skin ailments, including cuts, sores and eczema. It is also edible and used in salads when the leaves are young and tender, older leaves are somewhat tougher, but can still be used to make stews.

Greater Plantain Identification

  • Leaves: The round to oval leaves typically measure 5 – 20 cm long and 5 – 10 cm across, however, in rare instances can grow larger. Each has several prominent veins running parallel from the base along the length of the leaf. The leaves are generally smooth, but it is not uncommon for them to have small, fine hairs on their surface. The younger leaves are soft and tender eventually turning tough and leathery as the plant matures.
  • Flowers: The flowers are borne on long slender spikes or stalks ranging from 4 – 20 cm long (15 – 50 cm long including the stalk). The stalks produce green / white flowers, eventually turning into small capsule like seedpods that contain up to 20 seeds. When mature the seed pods break and the seeds falls on to the ground. The flowering period is usually between May and September.
  • Roots: Greater plantain has a shallow fibrous root system (see image below).

Greater Plantain Images(click image to enlarge)

More images and free downloads of greater plantain

Prevention and control
Encourage a tight, healthy sward of grass with good turf care practices to prevent weeds from invading.

As this weed is common on compacted soils, employ a regular aeration program to relieve soil compaction.

Greater plantain can be removed by hand using a small implement such as a grubber or small pocket knife. Removal is often easier when the soil is on the moist side.

Using a spot weeder is very effective in controlling this weed. Spot weeders are available for purchase from all good garden centres and DIY stores. Simply spray the pre-mixed solution onto the weed.

If the infestation is widespread then most selective herbicides will prove effective in controlling greater plantain, as it is relatively easy to kill. A single treatment should suffice. Greater plantain is susceptible to almost all chemicals used in selective weed killers.

Selective herbicides recommended for the control of greater plantain

Weedy Wednesday – Plantain

There are two plantains in the garden – the Ribwort and the Greater. Both are found in lawns and paths, and both are perennial weeds with strong roots. But did you know they are also a useful herb?

In this weekly series, we take a quick look at common garden weeds. How they grow, what benefits they bring to the garden, and how to manage them. Organic growers recognise the importance of these native plants. Insects and birds need the flowers and seeds – and gardeners, cooks and herbalists can harvest some nutrient rich foliage.

We hope that this snap-shot view of bindweed, dandelion, nettle, bramble, thistle, goosegrass, plantain, fat hen, dock and yes, even ground elder, will help you to live with them. We also give advice on how to compost weeds. You may not love them, but you certainly won’t be tempted to reach for the toxic weed-killer.

For more detailed information on over 100 individual weeds, go to the superbly researched Weeds List, and here for how to manage them.

Greater Plantain Plantago major

What: Also known as Common Plantain, Rat-tail and Waybread, this broad leaved native plant is a tough weed, resistant to drought and flooding. The young leaves are edible, although the flower stem does bear an unhappy resemblance to a rat’s tail!

Habit: Greater Plantain forms many strong roots that anchor the plant securely. On paths, where the plant may be trodden on, it has small prostrate leaves with a growing point just below soil level. But on untrodden ground the leaves are semi-erect and the growing point is at soil level. After surviving the winter, both roots and shoots grow throughout the summer. Plants can flower and set seed just 6 weeks after germination – an average plant producing 14,000 seeds per year. Indeed the plant usually reproduces by seed, not from the roots.

Benefits: Greater Plantain has a number of uses: the leaves can be eaten when young (they contain small amounts of calcium and vitamin A); herbalists also use the leaves to stem bleeding in small wounds, as well as to soothe insect bites and stings (it’s the plaintain, not the dock, that might help with nettle stings); and the fibres are tough enough to make cord.

Controls: the best way to get rid of plantain is to pull it out. In lawns, the low lying rosettes will survive mowing. Remove plants before setting seed.

Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata

What: This common weed found in grass, is also known as black plantain, tinker-tailor grass and windless. It is relatively drought resistant, and has been used by farmers for pasture improvement on hills, especially as sheep find it very palatable.

Habit: Like its cousin, plantago major, the leaf rosettes are low lying if regularly trampled on, but usually they are tall and erect, with long thin leaves. The flower stems stand erect, with easily recognisable heads, initially black, but which develop a ring of many small pale flowers. They need the wind and insects to pollinate. Seeds germinate either the same year or in the following Spring. Ribwort Plantain can reproduce by seed, or through root buds or fragments. Individual plants may live for up to 12 years.

Benefits: A tea or syrup from the leaves is used as a cough medicine. A poultice may also relieve stings and skin irritations. The flower stalks are tough and flexible enough to tie.

Controls: It is best to dig this plant out, before seeds have formed.

For further information on this and other weeds, go to the Weeds List . And here for ideas and advice on how to prevent and manage weeds.

Plantain (Broadleaf & Buckhorn)

Plantain is a common weed found in lawns. There are two types of plantain commonly found in lawns – broadleaf, or common, plantain (Plantago major) and buckhorn, or narrow-leaved, plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Both perennial weeds with short, thick tap roots and leaves that grow in a rosette. Plantain prefers full sun, but can also grow in some shade. They are tolerant of both wet and dry soils.

Broadleaf plantain has dark green, egg-shaped leaves that grow low to the ground. The leaves are usually smooth with wavy edges, 3-7 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, and have 3-5 clearly defined parallel veins. Flowers are produced on long narrow spikes, and a healthy plant can produce 14,000 seeds per years. The seeds can remain viable in the soil for 60+ years. Broadleaf plantain thrives in compacted soil with heavy traffic.

Buckhorn plantain has dark green, narrow, lance-shaped leaves that are 3-10 inches long and less than 1 inch wide. The leaves have very prominent veins. The flower stalks can be 12-18 inches tall, and the tightly clustered flowers, which resemble a bullet, form at the end of the long stalk. Buckhorn plantain is not able to withstand traffic as well as broadleaf plantain.

Plantain, More than a Weed

Plantain, known as Plantago major, grows all over North America and around the world. It is commonly found in yards and gardens where pesticides aren’t used. Chances are, if you’re a Climate Victory Gardener, you’ve come across this plant. And, while we’re often tempted to pull weeds to make space for fruit and veggies to grow, biodiversity and keeping plants like the plantain protects the soil and offers medicinal and nutritional benefits.

There are many types of plantain, easily identifiable by their tendency to lay flat and grow in areas that are often mowed. Their most noticeable feature are the parallel veins that run vertically along the leaves, that is, from stem to tip. If you’ve ditched the chemicals in your garden or yard, you may already have an abundance of plantain. When collecting, avoid plants in areas within eight feet of a road, where pesticides are used, and in areas frequented by pets.

This is narrow leaf plantain, a different variety than the broad leaf plant featured at the top of the blog.
Both have nutritional and medicinal benefits.

Plantain’s Medicinal Uses

Any time you’re using herbs medicinally, seek advice from a local herbalist or your doctor. Do your research and educate yourself on the specific issues you’re treating. Herbalist and author of Heal Local, Dawn Combs, notes that there are no known contraindications for plantain, but do not eat this plant if you have a known allergy.

In Humbart Santillo’s Natural Healing with Herbs, plantain is called the bandaid plant, because it helps stop bleeding, supports tissue regeneration, and is naturally antiseptic. Chew or crush the leaves and apply directly to the skin and use a bandaid to keep it in place. After it dries, rinse the area with cool water. This also helps bring splinters to the surface for removal and neutralizes bug bites and poison ivy—all things we may come across in our gardens.

This medicinal plant can also be infused, essentially into a strong tea. Combs highlights plantain’s diuretic properties, meaning it moves excess fluid out of the system. In her book The Top 100 Herbal Remedies, Annie McIntyre points to the plant’s ability to act as a mild blood cleanser, reducing toxin-based health issues. The infusion can be used in eye compresses, spritzed on a sunburn, applied to itchy skin and rashes, and dabbed on acne and eczema. When consumed as an infusion, it may help with colds, sore throats, allergies, sinus, chest congestion, and some digestive issues. To make a plantain infusion, put three handfuls of fresh leaves into a one-quart canning jar with boiling water. Seep up to overnight, strain the plant material, and it’s ready to use.

Plantain can also be taken in tincture form. This is the most potent form and can be used in treating bladder infections and other internal concerns. Combs’s book Heal Local has detailed guidance on this.

Plantain’s Nutritional Benefits

Plantain is edible. According to herbalists and authors Combs and McIntyre, it’s a good source of bioavailable zinc, calcium, and beta-carotene. The plant can be eaten raw or cooked and used dried or fresh.

In the spring, when the leaves are more tender, they can be used in salads and shredded as a healthy garnish for any dish. When added to smoothies, they provide chlorophyll, which nutritionist Paul Pitchford points to for increased purification, renewal, and anti-inflammatory support.

Later in the year, you may prefer to cook the tougher leaves. They can be added to stir fries or wilted as a side dish. Remember to harvest and dry leaves throughout the summer for winter use, when they can be crumbled into bone broth or soups.

Many common “weeds” have medicinal qualities & are edible. Skip harmful pesticides, like Roundup, because they’ve been linked to many environmental and human health issues. By embracing these plants, we protect our local groundwater and biodiversity; we reduce the amount of labor needed to maintain our yards; we protect the soil by keeping roots in the ground to support soil communities; and we diversify our diet.

Please share images of your plantain plants, remedies, and favorite recipes on the Climate Victory Gardening facebook page. Laurel Hobden ([email protected]), the author of this article, is an active member of the group and often posts about the benefits of weeds and other important Climate Victory Gardening practices. She also suggests this additional resource for a deeper dive into herbalism, eating weeds, and using them medicinally: Healing Wise, by Susun Weed.

Broadleaf plantain
 (Plantago major)

Click on images to enlarge

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.

Related or similar plants

  • Buckhorn plantain, Plantago lanceolata

More information

  • Broadleaf ID illustration
  • Calflora’s distribution map
  • For agriculture: UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines
  • For gardens and landscapes: UC IPM Plantains Pest Note

The plantains used as medicinal herbs are low-growing plants that you can find growing almost anywhere. In some circles plantain is regarded as a weed, but it’s actually one of the best healing herbs on the planet.

Plantains have a long history of being used as food plants and healing herbs in many diverse cultures around the world. The Native Americans used it to heal wounds, cure fever, and to draw out toxins from stings and bites, including snakebites.

You might have come across mainly two types of plantains; the ones with broad leaves called Plantago major and the narrow-leaved type P. lanceolata. You can use either one for healing purposes, depending on the availability in your locality, but most herbalists seem to prefer the broadleaf plantain with larger, but softer, edible leaves.

Health Benefits Of Plantain

Plantains have wide-ranging antimicrobial properties besides being anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It can not only soothe insect bites and superficial wounds but prevent infections and accelerate healing. An active biochemical aucubin is mainly responsible for the antimicrobial action of the herb. Another substance allantoin in the herb helps with skin tissue regeneration.

Plantains also have an astringent property that has a cleansing effect on the body. It helps dry up excess secretions in the respiratory tract and the digestive system, thus being useful in treating colds and diarrhea. The astringency is moderated by the demulcent effect of the mucilage in the herb, so this herbal remedy is much gentler than other commonly used astringents.

The edible leaves of broadleaf plantain are rich in calcium and other minerals and vitamins, including Vitamin K. This vitamin helps stem bleeding from cuts and wounds. Tender leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, but older leaves have to be cooked.

How To Collect Plantain Herb

Despite their medicinal and nutritional value, plantains have a weed status, and are, in fact, invasive in many areas. If you find them growing in abundance in wastelands in your area, it’s better to gather them from there, rather than introduce them into your garden. But make sure that the area is clean, and not chemically treated.

Most importantly, you should be able to positively identify the correct plant. The plants don’t have any stems above the ground. All you see is a tuft of leaves coming from a point. The characteristic flower stalks help identify plantain among other rosette-forming plants, but they may not be present all the time. If you are in doubt, get the help of a knowledgeable person.

Plantain leaves are mainly used for herbal preparations, so it is best to pick just the leaves, rather than dig out the entire plant. Pinch off unblemished leaves, selecting slightly mature ones over the very tender leaves, unless you’re planning to use them in salads. Mature leaves have a higher concentration of potent phytochemicals.

How To Use Plantain For Healing

Plantain is used to treat a variety of everyday problems, from mosquito bites and skin rashes to kidney problems and gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases. Let’s see how you can use this herb for healing.

Burns – Apply a poultice immediately and apply a bandage with leaves. Follow it up with a plantain salve.

Cuts and open sores – Stop bleeding from fresh cuts by applying crushed plantain leaves. Wash with plantain tea or diluted tincture (1 tbsp to a glass of water) to prevent infections and promote healing.

Boils and acne – Touch with a drop of tincture or apply salve.

For mouth ulcers – Swish 2-3 Tbsp plantain tea in the mouth 3-4 times a day. You can use 1 tbsp of tincture diluted with a cup of water too.

For throat pain/infection – Gargle with plantain tea or diluted tincture. Take 5-10 drops of tincture under the tongue and ingest it slowly.

Dandruff and other scalp problems – Apply plantain tea or oil infusion to the scalp and wash off after an hour.

For poison ivy/sumac/oak – Apply a poultice immediately, and then wash the area with plantain tea. Apply plantain sludge (more details at the end of this article) until the stinging pain is gone.

For sunburn – Apply fresh poultice or plantain sludge liberally. Wash the area with the tea and then apply the salve.

To improve liver and kidney function – Drink 1-2 glasses of plantain tea every day.

For relief from gastrointestinal inflammation – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink plantain tea.

For cold, flu, and respiratory infections – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink freshly brewed warm tea with honey.

How To Make Plantain Poultice

This is the quickest, and reportedly the most effective, way to use this healing herb. Keep a mental note of where you can find it in the garden or yard in an emergency. In case of an insect bite, bee sting, or poison ivy exposure, grab a few leaves, crush them between the palms, or pound them with a stone, and apply directly on the skin. If you are using it on yourself, just chew the leaves and use it as a poultice.

The mucilage from the bruised leaves will immediately soothe the pain while the anti-inflammatory effect of the herb reduces swelling and redness. The poultice will also draw the toxins from the sting, so it works best when applied immediately.

Read More: How To Make A Plantain Poultice

How To Make Plantain Tea

You will need:

  • Fresh plantain leaves – 1 cup
  • Water – 2 cups
  • Heat-proof bowl with fitting lid
  1. Wash the plantain leaves thoroughly and keep it in a bowl with lid.
  2. Boil the water and pour over the leaves in the bowl, cover with the lid and let them steep until the bowl is cold to touch.
  3. Strain out the tea and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Drink 1-2 cups of this plantain tea a day to control diarrhea or to get relief from the symptoms of cold and fever. You can drink it plain or add honey for taste. It can bring relief to people who have stomach ulcers, IBS or other inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Plantain tea can be used as a general tonic too.

Use plantain tea topically to wash wounds, boils, and skin damaged by sunburn, rashes, eczema etc.

How To Make Plantain Salve

Keeping a tub of plantain salve handy can be so useful in situations when you cannot run out to get the herb. It is an excellent first aid for cuts and bruises, insect bites, poison ivy attacks, and skin rashes and eruptions that suddenly appear for no apparent reason. You can even use it in small amounts as a diaper cream for babies.

To find out how to make a plantain salve, visit our full step-by-step tutorial here.


Use this healing salve on skin rashes, chapped skin, insect, and spider bites. It is excellent for regular use on eczema and psoriasis-affected skin.

To make sure that the salve lasts for some time without any preservatives, gather the leaves on a dry day, and dry them thoroughly after washing.

Since coconut oil naturally solidifies at room temperature (below 75F), you can make this preparation without beeswax, but the salve will have a creamy consistency. You can make the oil infusion with olive oil or castor oil for use on the scalp.

How To Make Plantain Tincture

You will need:

  • Plantain leaves washed and dried of excess moisture – 1 cup
  • 100 proof vodka or brandy – 1 pint
  • Glass jar with tight-fitting lid


  1. Put the leaves into a jar and pour the alcohol over it so that it completely covers the leaves and fills the jar. Use a glass rod to stir the mixture well.
  2. Put the lid on and place the jar in a dark place, giving it a good shake every few days.
  3. After 6-8 weeks, decant into clean bottles and store in a dark place.


The tincture made with plantain leaves and 100% alcohol can last for two to three years without losing its potency.

It is a very potent remedy for cold, respiratory infections and ailments of the stomach. Use 10 drops under the tongue and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing. You can add 10 drops of the tincture into a glass of water and drink slowly. For external use, put a drop on boils and sores.

Plantain Leaf Sludge

The sludge obtained from draining the tea can be applied as a cooling and healing poultice on your face, shoulders and back red and raw from sunburn. Similarly, the residue left over from the oil infusion can be used to ease burns, eczema, and psoriasis. Grind it to get a more uniform paste.

Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae)

Since originating in Eurasia, buckhorn plantain has spread all over the world with the exception of a few areas in the sub-arctic. It is believed that the species entered North America as a contaminant of crop seeds. Buckhorn plantain is naturalized throughout Ohio. It is a common weed in turfgrass, landscapes, dry pastures, cultivated fields, open woods, shores, riverbanks, roadsides, and waste places. The species prefers soils that are dry and hard-packed. It is highly resistant to drought.

Buckhorn plantain is a low growing, rosette-forming perennial. Distinctive characteristics include long, narrow leaves that have prominent parallel veins and inconspicuous flowers in dense clusters located at the end of erect, leafless flowering stems. Surrounding each flower cluster is what appears to be a ring or halo consisting of pollen-bearing anthers protruding from the centers of the flowers. The species reproduces by seeds.

  • Roots are mainly fibrous but a short, undeveloped taproot may also form.

  • First 2 leaves to emerge (cotyledons) are grass-like, smooth, narrow, and have a depression on the upper surface. The 2 leaves that follow have hairy edges. Subsequent leaves are sparsely hairy. All leaves are basal forming a rosette.

  • The erect flowering stems (scapes) are less than 12 inches tall, leafless, unbranched, and terminate in a cluster of small, inconspicuous flowers. Several stems may emerge from a single root system.

  • Mature leaves are thin, pale green, lance-shaped, 2 to 10 inches long, and less than 1 inch wide. Leaves have 3 to 5 prominent veins running parallel to the leaf edge. Leaves gradually narrow at the base into a short leaf stalk (petiole). The leaf edge may be smooth or slightly toothed.

  • Flowers are comprised of inconspicuous, papery, brownish or yellow petals and are borne in short, dense, oval clusters located at the end of an upright flowering stem. The long, pollen-bearing flower structures (stamens) that protrude from the center of each flower form a ring or halo around the cluster.

  • Fruit is an elongated, brown, 2-seeded capsule that opens by splitting across the middle. Seeds are 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, brown, shiny, and boat-shaped with a scar in the center of the concave side.

Blackseed plantain (Plantago rugelii) and broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) are related species that appear similar except they have oval-shaped leaves and their flower clusters are not as compressed. Hoary plantain (Plantago media) also looks similar to buckhorn plantain except its leaves are elliptic and covered with wooly hairs.

Flowering occurs in June through September. When wet, seeds develop a sticky mucilaginous cover that causes them to adhere to soil particles and animals. It was reported that, when grown without competition, an individual plant produced over 30 flower spikes and 10,000 seeds in a single season. Plants may not produce seeds every year. Most seeds germinate or die within a year; however, over half of the seeds buried 3 feet deep in soil remained viable after 3 years and some germinated after 16 years of burial. Because seeds readily germinate in darkness, buckhorn plantain can establish in shade under dense vegetation. Emergence of seedlings tends to be concentrated in compressed or depressed microsites, such as footprints made by animals. Often, plants form new shoots at the base producing a clump of rosettes sharing the same root system. The plant tolerates close mowing but does not survive in areas where it is routinely trampled. It can be controlled by application of selective herbicides.

None known. However, the large amounts of airborne pollen likely affect those suffering from hay fever.

  • The many medicinal uses for buckhorn plantain include applying crushed leaves to the skin to treat insect bites and using seeds to treat constipation.

  • Birds are fond of plantain seeds, which contain a higher percentage of oil than many seeds and are grown commercially and included in some bird seed mixtures. Rabbits and sheep are fond of eating buckhorn plantain and have been observed using their lower teeth to loosen the crowns of plants from the ground.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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Ontario Weeds: Narrow-leaved plantain

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
    • Photos and Pictures
  5. Habitat
  6. Similar Species
  7. Related Links

Name: Narrow-leaved plantain, Plantago lanceolata L.,
Other Names: Buckhorn plantain, English plantain, Ribgrass, plantain lancéolé, plantain à feuilles lancéolées, herbe à cinq coutures
Family: Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae)
General Description: Perennial, reproducing only by seed. It is distinguished by its rosette of long, narrow leaves with prominent, parallel veins, and its slender, leafless stems tipped with short, dense, oval spikes of tiny flowers.

Photos and Pictures

Narrow-leaved plantain. A. Plant.

B. Seedling.

Habitat: It occurs throughout Ontario in pastures, meadows, roadsides, cultivated fields, lawns and gardens.

Similar Species: Very similar to Broad-leaved plantain in general habit of growth; differing mainly in having long, narrow leaves which have very prominent, almost parallel veins or ribs which run the length of the leaf, sometimes the blade being strongly folded lengthwise along each rib, and the 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 3mm (1/8in.) long. Flowers from spring until late autumn and the plant may act as an annual or perennial.

Related Links

… on general Weed topics
… on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
… on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes


Revised 4/07

In this Guideline:

  • Identification and life cycle
  • Impact
  • Management
  • About Pest Notes
  • Publication
  • Glossary

Broadleaf plantain, Plantago major.

Buckhorn plantain, Plantago lanceolata.

Leaves of buckhorn plantain (left) and broadleaf plantain.

Flowering stalk of buckhorn plantain (left) and broadleaf plantain.

Broadleaf and buckhorn plantain (Plantago major and P. lanceolata) are major weeds of turf, ornamentals, gardens, waste areas, forage legumes, and pastures. Broadleaf plantain is also known as common plantain and dooryard plantain. Other names for buckhorn plantain are narrow-leaf plantain, ribwort plantain, English plantain, and ribgrass. The genus, Plantago, consists of about 250 species worldwide, 16 of which are found in California. Both broadleaf and buckhorn plantain were introduced from Europe and followed the European settlement of North America. For this reason, one common name for the plantains is “white man’s foot.” Young leaves of broadleaf plantain are sometimes used as a potherb or in salads. Older leaves can be steeped in hot water to produce a tea that some use as a mouthwash to treat mouth sores and toothaches. A poultice is also made to treat sores, blisters, insect bites, and other external injuries. Whole seeds have a laxative effect if eaten raw. With the recent interest in medicinal plants, many plantain-related products are now available for upper respiratory tract infections and other ailments.


Broadleaf plantain is a perennial plant that grows best in moist areas with full sun or partial shade and compacted soil. Its fibrous root system is primarily found in the top 18 inches of soil. The smooth, oval leaf blades are 2 to 6 inches in length with five to seven ribs that parallel the leaf margins. The leaf veins converge at the base into a broad petiole (leaf stem) that may be up to 5 inches in length. The upright flowering stalk terminates in a long cylindrical spike head that may be 2 to 6 inches in length. Seeds are small (1/16 inch in diameter), reddish brown, and angular.

Buckhorn plantain is a perennial plant that has a taproot and longer, narrower oval leaves than broadleaf plantain. Its leaves measure 3 to 12 inches in length, are 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches wide, and have three to five ribs. The blade merges smoothly into the petiole, which is shorter than that of broadleaf plantain. The base of the leaf stalks and the crown of the plant are covered with tan, woolly hairs. The flowering stalk of buckhorn plantain is much longer than that of broadleaf plantain; it measures from 12 to 18 inches. Its dense spike of flowers is about 1 to 2 inches in length and shorter than the spike of broadleaf plantain. Seeds are black, shiny, boat shaped, and about 1/16 inch in length.

Both species are found throughout the state and grow year-round except in the coldest intermountain areas where they are dormant during the coldest months. They produce a fairly weak root system. Buds grow from the uppermost area of the root, producing a crown that can regenerate “new” plants even when the plant is cut off at or below the soil surface. There are no true stems; rather, the leaves are clustered in a rosette at the base of the plant.

Seed germination occurs at or very near the soil surface. The seed will germinate when soil moisture is adequate and soil temperature reaches 50°F; however, germination is more rapid as temperature increases. The ideal temperature for germination is around 77°F. Germination occurs throughout the growing season. Seedling growth is slower in cold weather. The seedling stage can last 8 to 15 weeks, depending on temperature and growing conditions.

Flowering begins soon after the seedling stage and continues throughout the life of the perennial plant. Broadleaf plantain can survive for many years, developing a thickened crown 6 to 10 inches across with fibrous roots, whereas buckhorn plantain has a stout taproot. These perennial plants are well adapted to irrigated areas where frequent mowing or grazing is practiced. This includes lawns, pastures, and alfalfa fields. Buckhorn plantain will tolerate drought when it is well established.


Plantains can be a major weed problem for turfgrass or ornamental managers. In turfgrass they form dense clumps that give poor footing for athletic fields and golf courses. The plantains have a texture and color that varies from normal turf cultivars, and their flower stalks extend above the turf, reducing its aesthetic quality.

When plantains infest turfgrass or ornamental plantings, they usually form dense populations of individual plants. Plantain crowds out desirable species and reduces the vigor of those plants that survive. Because of the extensive crowns, hand-pulling, digging, or hoeing to remove plantain is usually futile unless repeated for several months. Control by repeated removal of plants is usually most successful in a home garden or lawn. Because the leaves lie close to the ground, mowing is not an effective control.

Once a few plants become established in turfgrass or ornamental areas, seed and plant parts can contaminate equipment, particularly lawn mowers, and spread to new areas. Cleaning equipment prior to moving to a new area can reduce the spread of plantains and other weeds.

Buckhorn plantain is also a weed problem in nontilled orchards, irrigated pastures, and alfalfa and clover fields where mowing is used for weed control. It is usually most serious in the intermountain regions of California where alfalfa and irrigated pastures remain in production for long periods (more than 5 years). Although slow to establish, buckhorn plantain is difficult to control when mature because of its extensive crown system.


Solitary new plantain seedlings along fence rows, roadsides, flowerbeds, and in turf should be removed before they produce seed. The area should then be monitored for several months to make sure that removal was complete. Areas with infestations should be isolated and seed heads removed until control can be accomplished. Turfgrass and ornamental areas should be well maintained to assure maximum vigor. A healthy competitive landscape will slow invasion of these weeds. Dense stands of turf and ornamentals will shade the soil surface making establishment of new plantain seedlings more difficult. Helpful turf management practices include soil aeration, avoiding over watering, and using the proper mower cutting height for each turf species.


No single procedure has been successful in controlling plantain in turfgrass. Early removal of new seedlings has been successful when practiced diligently. Digging out perennial plantain plants must be done regularly for several years to be successful. Repeated applications to perennial plants with products containing 2,4-D or triclopyr can be helpful. Once these weeds are killed in open sites, these areas should be overseeded to establish a vigorous turfgrass sod.

Preemergent turfgrass herbicides commonly used for crabgrass control have not been successful in limiting germination of plantain. Isoxaben, a relatively new broadleaf preemergent herbicide, has been effective in limiting germination of plantain in turfgrass.

Postemergent broadleaf herbicides (2,4-D, triclopyr, MCPA, and mecoprop) can control plantain seedlings, but control of established plantain plants with postemergent treatment is much more difficult. For established plants, 2,4-D works best while triclopyr, MCPA, and mecoprop will only reduce its vigor. Best control is achieved from a fall application. Repeat applications are needed to kill weakened perennial weeds and new germinating seedlings.


There are few options for the control of plantain in ornamental plantings. Prevention is very important. Hand-removal or spot treating of solitary plants with glyphosate will save time and money in the long run. Pulling or hand-hoeing is helpful if done periodically during the year. However, regrowth from the extensive crown system limits the effectiveness of this method.

Mulching with landscape fabrics can be effective for controlling seedlings of both species. Even established broadleaf plantain can be controlled if the fabric is overlapped and no light is allowed to penetrate to the soil. Use a polypropylene or polyester fabric or black polyethylene (plastic tarp) to block all plant growth. Cover fabric mulches with an organic mulch to improve aesthetics. Organic mulches may also effectively control plantain seedlings if they are at least 3 inches deep, are coarse enough, and regularly inspected and weeded so they do not serve as a growth medium for new plantain seedlings. Because mulches degrade over time, regular inspection is necessary to ensure adequate shading and prevention of weed establishment. For organic mulches, it helps to apply a 6-inch layer initially to account for the gradual degradation that will occur over the growing season. Reapply as necessary.

The preemergent herbicide isoxaben has been useful in limiting emergence of plantain seedlings. It must be applied before the weed seed germinates in order to be successful. If isoxaben is used, a light hoeing may be necessary to control any seedlings that escape the treatment.

Postemergent spot treatment with glyphosate can control existing plantain plants in established ornamental plantings, but do not spray or let glyphosate drift onto desirable plants or they will be injured. If spraying is not feasible, remove plants by digging out their crowns.

Alfalfa, Clover, and Irrigated Pastures

By preventing isolated plantain plants from producing seeds in and around production fields, you can reduce the seed source for new seedling establishment. A healthy vigorous crop stand can shade out and discourage germination of new seedlings. Preemergent treatment with hexazinone in alfalfa has been successful in controlling seedling germination of plantain. No postemergent herbicide has been entirely successful in the control of established plantain plants; however, where it can be safely used in pastures and clover 2,4-D can reduce plantain vigor.


Plantain can be managed in orchards through summer cultivations or by maintaining a competitive cover crop. Glyphosate is often used to spot treat individual plants.


Blom, C. W. 1978. Germination, seedling emergence and establishment of some Plantago species under laboratory and field conditions. Acta Botanica Neerlandica 27:257-271.

Hawthorn, W. R. 1974. The biology of Canadian weeds. 4. Plantago major and P. rugelii. Can. J. Plant Sci. 54:383-396.


Pest Notes: Plantains
UC ANR Publication 7478

Authors: C. L. Elmore, Veg Crops/Weed Science emeritus, UC Davis; D. W. Cudney, Botany/Plant Sciences emeritus, UC Riverside; M. E. McGiffen Jr, Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside
Produced by IPM Education and Publications, University of California Statewide IPM Program

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