Blackseed and broadleaf plantain

Encyclopedia Article

Broadleaf and blackseed plantain                          Plantago major Land P. rugelii 

Family:  Plantaginaceae (Plantain family)                            
Life cycle:  Perennial, reproducing by seed
Native status:  Broadleaf plantain is introduced to N. America, whereas blackseed plantain is native
Habitat:   Turf, landscapes, waste areas                                

General description:  Basal rosette of smooth, elliptic to oval leaves, up to 7 in long and 4 in wide.  Leaves have prominent veins and usually inconspicuous hairs.  As leaves mature the margins tend to get wavy.  Flowers are inconspicuous, produced on a leafless stalk up to 10 in long.  Flowers arranged in a spike that covers at least ¾ of the stalk.  Has a fibrous root system.

Key ID traits:  Rosette of oval leaves with prominent veins.

Similar species:  Blackseed plantain can be difficult to differentiate from broadleaf plantain.  Blackseed plantain usually has a red tinge at the base of leaf petioles and lacks hairs on leaf blades.  Blackseed plantain has dull, black seeds whereas those of broadleaf are shiny and light to dark brown.

Miscellaneous:  The plantains once were much more problematic as lawn weeds.  They are much more susceptible to the growth regulator herbicides that are commonly used on lawns than many other perennial weeds. One reason for their greater sensitivity to herbicides than dandelion is the plantains have a fibrous root system rather than a taproot found on dandelions. The taproot stores more energy reserves than a fibrous root system, increasing the ability to come back from herbicide treatments.

Oval leaves with long, flat petioles characteristic of plantain.  The red base of petiole suggests this is blackseed plantain.

seedheads of broadleaf (left) and buckhorn (right) plantain
Seedheads of broadleaf (left) and buckhorn (right) plantain


Successful weeds adapt to stresses in the environment. This plantain is able to survive a mowing height of 0.5" or less in a creeping bentgrass golf fairway.