Plantaginaceae – The Plantains of Whiteknights

According to the treatment by Stace (2010) this is a plant family of just two genera and eight species, seven of which are in the genus Plantago and so far two of these I have found on Whiteknights campus.  Plantains are small annual or perennial plants that generally have leaves in a rosette formation.  They are also distinguishable by their flower heads which are positioned on the top of leafless stalks (Stace, 2011).  It is hard NOT to see a Plantain on campus as they grow in the lawns, grassland, disturbed soil, and even out of cracks in the pavement.

Plantago major leaf and inflorescence

Ribwort Plantain. Picture taken on grassland behind AMS.

The Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is easy to distinguish from other Plantains as it has long narrow leaves that gently taper. I found many in the unmown grassland near Car Park 3 and also in the Harris Garden but it is very widespread on campus.

The Greater Plantain (Plantago major) can be identified by its leaf stalks which are as long as the leaves. Flower stalks are 10-15cm long and it is more or less hairless (Rose, 2006).  This is a plant of very disturbed ground and so is usually found thriving in bare, trampled areas at the edge of tracks and pathways. 

There is a third Plantain which has been recorded on campus, Buck’s-horn Plantain (Plantago coronopus) (Le Grice and Jury 2011) but despite my best efforts it has eluded me.  It is extremely resistant to trampling and, although often coastal in distribution, can also be found in dry grassy areas inland, can YOU find it on our campus?

Plantago major showing broad leaves with distinctive veins.



Le Grice, D. and Jury, S.L. (2011). Flora of Whiteknights Park. Unpublished.

Rose, F. (2006). The Wildflower Key. New revised, expanded edition. Frederick Warne & Co.

Stace C.A. (2011). New Flora of the British Isles. 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press.

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About sorrel

Hi, I'm Sorrel and I'm an MSc student studying Species Identification and Survey Skills. My BSc was in Marine Biology and since graduating I have had various scientific and non-scientific jobs. I decided to do an MSc as I want to get a job that involves Conservation of some sort. I have an interest in plants, fungi and animals and I'm especially interested in butterfly conservation.
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