E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Plantago major L.
common plantain
Plantaginaceae (Mare's-tail family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© 3CDSG DND  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #4479)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Plantago major
Click here to view our interactive map and legend
Details about map content are available here
Click on the map dots to view record details.


Common plantain is a shade-intolerant, herbaceous perennial (sometimes annual) species with fibrous roots from a compact stem. Plants may be hirsute or glabrous. It is one of four species of Plantago found in BC and is widespread in the province. It is a common species on pathways and in areas of compacted soil across North America. It is a self-compatible, wind-pollinated, allergenic species that reproduces by seeds. Bassett (1973), in his monograph The Plantains of Canada indicated that the origin of this species had not been established and it was not known if it was native to North America or introduced. However, since that publication, many sources list it as an introduced species native to Eurasia (e.g. USDA 2010).


Bassett, I. John. 1973. The Plantains of Canada. Monograph No. 7. Research Branch, Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa.

USDA. 2010. Plantago major. United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database. Available Onliine.

Species Information

Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this species.

Perennial herb from a fibrous root; stems erect, several, simple, smooth or stiff-hairy, 5-50 cm tall.
Basal leaves broadly elliptic to lanceolate or egg-shaped, tapered into long stalk, entire or irregularly toothed, 4-18 cm long, 2.5-11 cm wide, strongly parallel-veined; stem leaves lacking.
Inflorescence of dense, narrow, bracteate spikes, the spikes less than 1 cm thick, 5-30 cm long, smooth; corolla greenish, 4-lobed, the lobes deltoid, 0.4-0.5 mm long; bracts 2-4 mm long, thin-margined; stamens inconspicuous.
Capsules, egg-shaped, 2.5-4 mm long; seeds 5-25, black or brown, 1 mm long, finely veined.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Green
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Mesic to dry lawns, fields, roadsides and waste places in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common in SW BC, less frequent elsewhere; introduced from Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

"The family Plantaginaceae includes three genera and an estimated 250-275 species from diverse habitats throughout the world (Pilger 1937). In Canada, the family is represented by two genera containing seven introduced species and ten native species" (Bassett 1973).


Bassett, I. John. 1973. The Plantains of Canada. Monograph No. 7. Canada Department of Agriculture.


Ecological Framework for Plantago major

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 702 1877
Slope Gradient (%) 0 3 35
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 27 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
2 5 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BG(7), BWBS(1), CDF(4), CWH(15), ESSF(1), ICH(5), IDF(32), MS(3), PP(8), SBPS(2), SBS(12)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Plantago asiatica auct. non L.
Plantago halophila E.P. Bicknell
Plantago major subsp. intermedia (DC.) Arcang.
Plantago major var. asiatica auct. non (L.) Decne.
Plantago major var. intermedia (DC.) Pilg.
Plantago major var. pachyphylla Pilg.
Plantago major var. pilgeri Domin
Plantago major var. scopulorum Fr. & Broberg

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References