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Genus Plantago Family Plantaginaceae

Description: Annual or perennial herbs, pilose or glabrous except for hairs in the leaf axils.

Leaves usually in a basal rosette, lamina mostly with 3–9 ± longitudinal veins.

Inflorescences spikes, heads or rarely flowers solitary. Flowers bisexual, in axils of sepaloid bracts. Sepals ± membranous, with a ± prominent keel; persistent in fruit. Corolla scarious or membranous, narrowly tubular, 4-lobed. Placentation axile, ovules mostly 1–6 in each loculus.

Fruit a capsule; seeds usually with a mucilaginous coat (conspicuous when wet).

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 265 species, cosmopolitan, especially temperate regions, from coastal to high altitudes. Australia: 33 species (24 species endemic, 8 species naturalized), all States.

The introduced species include several widespread weeds and commonly colonize disturbed sites, but most of the native species are characteristically in relatively undisturbed habitats. P. hedleyi Maiden is endemic to Lord Howe Is.

Text by B. G. Briggs
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Plantago hedleyi

 Key to the species 
1Spikes mostly with 1–9 flowers2
Spikes with more than 10 flowers4
2Leaves mostly less than 5 mm wide; scapes elongated at flowering stage with flowers held above leaf bases, rosettes small forming a turfPlantago glacialis
Leaves more than 5 mm wide; scapes very short at flowering stage so that flowers are among the leaf bases (scapes elongating after flowering); rosettes larger (mostly 5–10 cm diam.) not forming a turf
                       Back to 1
3Leaves glossy, usually spreading; upper bracts broad-elliptic and thickPlantago muelleri
Leaves dull, usually more or less erect; upper bracts narrow-elliptic, thickened only on the keel
                       Back to 2
Plantago palustris
4Plants either with elongated branching leafy stems, or with leaves mostly pinnately lobed5
Stems not elongated and branching; leaves entire or toothed
                       Back to 1
5Leaves entire, on elongated branching stemsPlantago arenaria
Leaves mostly deeply pinnately or bipinnately lobed, all basal
                       Back to 4
Plantago coronopus
6Corolla lobes erect and rigid after flowering; ovules 3Plantago myosuros
Corolla lobes spreading and not rigid after flowering; ovules more than 3
                       Back to 4
7Ovules and seeds 8–16; leaves with lamina ovate or broad- elliptic, petiole about as long as the laminaPlantago major
Ovules 4 or 5, seeds 1–5, leaves either with lamina narrower or petiole shorter than the lamina
                       Back to 6
8Taproot not developed9
Taproot developed
                       Back to 7
9Leaves thin-textured, more than 3 times as long as broadPlantago cladarophylla
Leaves fleshy or leathery, less than 3 times as long as broad
                       Back to 8
10Leaves mostly 3-veined, lateral veins much less conspicuous on upper surface than midvein and not extending into upper half of lamina; fruiting spikes usually 0.8–4 cm longPlantago alpestris
Leaves usually at least 5-veined, veins mostly all conspicuous on upper surface and all extending into upper half of lamina; fruiting spikes usually 4–8 cm long
                       Back to 9
Plantago euryphylla
11Scapes with regular longitudinal ridges; anterior sepals fused into a 2-lobed structure with 2 veinsPlantago lanceolata
Scapes not conspicuously ridged; sepals all free
                       Back to 8
12Annuals; capsules large, either 3.4–5 mm long, or with a truncate beak, or distinctly contracted below apex13
Perennials; capsules not as above
                       Back to 11
13Capsules with an almost cylindrical beak, the apex truncate and minutely lobedPlantago turrifera
Capsules acute or apex rounded, without a cylindrical beak
                       Back to 12
14Capsules large, 2.2–3.2 mm diam., not distinctly contracted below apex; bracts and sepals usually dark brown or blackish15
Capsules smaller, usually 1.7–2.0 mm diam., distinctly contracted below apex; bracts and sepals pale or dark brown
                       Back to 13
Plantago cunninghamii
15Leaves 3–24 mm wide; capsules acutePlantago drummondii
Leaves 0.7–2 mm wide; capsules rounded
                       Back to 14
Plantago multiscapa
16Sepals with a glabrous keel or with a few hairs only17
Sepals with a pilose keel
                       Back to 12
17Sepals mostly 1.5–2.0 mm long; leaves thin-textured18
Sepals mostly 2.1–2.5 mm long; leaves thick-textured
                       Back to 16
Plantago antarctica
18Leaves linear-elliptic to lanceolate; sepals with a rounded or flattened keel; capsules 2.5–3.8 mm longPlantago cladarophylla
Leaves oblanceolate to obovate; sepals usually sharply keeled; capsules 1.7–3.0 mm long
                       Back to 17
Plantago debilis
19Sepals mostly 2.8–3.5 mm long; axils of leaves with tufts of red-brown or deep golden-brown hairs 2–6 mm long20
Sepals 1.5–2.8 mm long (rarely to 3 mm); axils of leaves with short whitish or yellowish brown hairs
                       Back to 16
20Leaves narrow-elliptic to oblong-oblanceolate, 5–10 times as long as broad, pilose with soft short hairs to 1 mm longPlantago varia
Leaves linear or very narrow-elliptic, more than 15 times as long as broad, either glabrous or pilose with long or short hairs
                       Back to 19
Plantago gaudichaudii
21Sepals mostly 1.5–2.2 mm long; leaves mostly oblanceolate to obovate, rarely narrower, 8–40 mm wide; spikes usually lax at maturityPlantago debilis
Sepals mostly 2.2–2.8 mm long; leaves mostly narrow-oblong to oblanceolate, 3–21 mm wide; spikes usually compact at maturity
                       Back to 19
Plantago hispida

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