Range: Throughout North America except the extreme North. Habitat: Yards and lawns, roadsides, and waste places.
A very persistent intruder in yards and lawns, no doubt because of the long vitality of its seeds. Leaves all basal, long ovate, entire, obtuse, rounded at base, with five to seven prominent lengthwise veins that all draw together into a thick, channeled petiole; the outer row of the spreading tuft lies close to the ground, conserving moisture for the clustered, fibrous roots and choking out grass or other plant growth. Flowers on slender, cylindrical blunt spikes, three inches to a foot or more in length, densely crowded, the corollas four-lobed, with four stamens inserted on the throat, and a single style which protrudes from the bud, its stigma withered before its own anthers are ripe, thus insuring cross-fertilization; calyx four-parted, persistent, subtended by a small bract; ovary two-celled. Capsule a small urn or pyxis, the top separating transversely at about the middle; each contains five to sixteen seeds. When wet these seeds develop a coat of mucilage which helps in their distribution; they are a frequent impurity of other seeds, particularly of alsike clover. (Fig. 272.)
Fig. 272. - Broad-leaved Plantain (Plantago major). X 1/6.
In lawns these weeds can be destroyed without much defacement of the sward by treating them with carbolic acid. Stab each plant in the center, down to the fibrous cluster of roots, with a stout dibble or skewer stick, and squirt in a few drops of the acid with a common machine oil-can. Or the plants may be cut out with a spud. The best time for either operation is in dry weather, just before the spikes appear. In cultivated crops Plantains are not very troublesome, as the needed tillage destroys them.