Plantago elongata Pursh

Small Plantain

Plantago elongata plant

Family - Plantaginaceae

Habit - Taprooted or fibrous rooted perennial herb.

Stems - Absent or very short.

Leaves - In dense basal rosette, sessile, ascending to erect, to 6 cm long and 2.5 mm wide, linear to threadlike (those of seedlings sometimes broader), entire, glabrous or pubescent with short appressed hairs, green, with 1 main vein.

Plantago_elongata_leaves.jpgLeaves.

Inflorescences - 1 to several per plant, elongate terminal spikes to 7 cm long and 2-4 mm in diameter, loosely flowered with axis visible between flowers, the stalk to 8 cm long, strongly ascending to erect, solid, appressed-hairy.

Plantago_elongata_inflorescence.jpgInflorescences.

Flowers - Bracts 1.0-2.5 mm long, shorter than to about as long as the flowers, lanceolate to ovate, with translucent margins and a thickened, green midnerve, angled to a bluntly or sharply pointed tip, glabrous. Cleistogamous flowers usually ubiquitous. Calyces deeply 4-lobed, 1.5-2.5 mm long, slightly zygomorphic, oblong-ovate to obovate, the keel glabrous, the relatively broad margins thin and papery. Corollas not noticeably zygomorphic, the lobes 0.5-1.0 mm long, lanceolate, sharply pointed at the tip, the margins entire, tan, all of the lobes erect and overlapping at flowering, appearing beaklike at fruiting. Stamens 2.

Plantago_elongata_flowers.jpgFlowers.

Fruits - 1-3 mm long, narrowly ellipsoid. Seeds mostly 4 per fruit, 1.0-1.8 mm long, the surface with a differentiated band on 1 side, otherwise finely pitted, tan to dark brown or black, shiny.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Glades, savannas, upland prairies, bluff tops, forest openings, streambanks, roadsides, on acidic or sandy substrate.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This little species almost defines "inconspicuous." It stands only a 3-4 inches high and the flowers are minute. Most people would consider it a weed, but it is a member of our native flora and does not exhibit a weedy growth habit. It is found through most of Missouri except for the far northern portion. In North America it is mainly found in three regions: the west coast, the upper Plains states and into Canada, and the lower Midwest.

The species has also been called P. pusilla, and the complex would benefit from further study.

Photographs taken at Coldwater Conservation Area, Wayne County, MO, 4-15-2015 (SRTurner).



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