In the Weeds: Plantain (nope, the other one)

The difference between a weed and a flower is judgment. Or maybe just attention. Who – other than the gardeners who spend hours uprooting them – really thinks about weeds? Weeds are tenacious growers, always looking for new ways to survive where they’re not wanted. Although most are unassuming, they always carry rich histories and often have potent properties. Learning about these overlooked plants can teach us about spontaneity, endurance, and healing. Every two weeks, I’ll find out everything I can about a local (to wherever I am at the time) weed that’s in season so that we can become better acquainted with one of our quiet but powerful neighbors.

We all know that plantains are the world’s best starch, but did you know that plantain (Plantago spp.) is just as wonderful?


Plantain has been in North America since Europeans invaded in the 15th century. Now, thanks to its invasive and stubborn nature, it lives almost everywhere where humans do. Plantain’s tiny seeds – over 20,000 growing on each plant – hitched a ride across the continent on European’s boots, leading members of Algonquian nations to call it “White Mans Foot” or “English Man’s Foot.” Perhaps this – or the shape of the leaf – is what gave rise to the scientific name, Plantago.

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