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Broadleaf Plantain

Did You Know?

A few facts:

  • Very common in lawns and gardens
  • Can be used for medicinal purposes
  • Thrives in high traffic soils

How to get rid of broadleaf plantain:

  • Remove mechanically when young
  • Treat with herbicides

Information by Rakesh Chandran, Ph.D., WVU Extension Service Weed Science Specialist

Another terrible lawn weed of many virtues!

Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) is a weed found mostly in temperate regions of the world. It originated in Eurasia and is considered to have been introduced to the New World through New England by the Puritans. There, it was initially cultivated for its highly regarded medicinal properties. Early settlers and travelers used extracts from the leaves of broadleaf plantain to treat foot injuries, while also using its young leaves, which resemble spinach, as a salad. In the past, broadleaf plantain was cultivated in monasteries for its various medicinal properties. Apart from its antimicrobial and antioxidant attributes, broadleaf plantain has been documented to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. It also has been shown to boost the immune system and to help treat ulcers, diarrhea and fatigue. The medicinal value of broadleaf plantain can be attributed to the various biochemical constituents, such as alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolic acid derivatives and terpenoids, present in it.

Broadleaf Plantain Identification

A broadleaf plantain seed head.

Broadleaf plantain belongs to the plantain (Plantaginaceae) family. Its name is believed to have derived from the Latin word “planta” used to describe the “sole of a foot,” alluding to its leaf shape. It is a simple perennial capable of producing rootstocks that can regenerate from its point of growth. Broadleaf plantain is characterized by rosettes of spirally arranged leaves and numerous whitish adventitious roots that emerge from the lower part of its short stem. Leaves are oval to elliptical with entire or wavy margins. It reproduces mostly from seeds that develop from tiny yellowish-white flowers borne on spikes. Each plant can produce up to 14,000 seeds that can remain viable in the soil for 50 to 60 years. Freshly produced seeds do not germinate until the following spring; light is a requirement for seed germination with an optimal temperature requirement around 25°C. Although broadleaf plantains prefer moist soil, they can adapt to a wide range of soil conditions, including dry soils. They thrive well in disturbed and trampled soils prone to traffic and compaction.

Controls for Broadleaf Plantain

A broadleaf plantain root structure.

Mechanical methods, such as hoeing or cultivation, if carried out thoroughly to uproot the entire root system can be effective to control young plants. Mulches, such as black plastic or landscape fabric, are effective to control this weed in flowerbeds or backyard gardens.

Large populations may be controlled by application of herbicides specific to labelled crops. In cool-season lawns, the herbicide mesotrione (Tenacity) can prevent broadleaf plantain from germinating when applied to newly seeded turf. In landscapes, pre-emergent herbicides, such as isoxaben (Gallery, Snapshot) or indaziflam (Marengo) controls this weed. Once established in lawns, they are best managed by a herbicide containing 2,4-D or triclopyr (Turflon) as active ingredients or a pre-mixed herbicide, such as Q-4, containing multiple active ingredients. Late-fall application provides consistent control following application of a systemic herbicide to control broadleaf plantain. Once broadleaf plantain establishes in landscapes, chemical control may be limited to spot-application of glyphosate (Roundup or other formulations) or glufosinate (Rely).


Author: Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist
Last Reviewed: July 2020

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by West Virginia University Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension agent.

A broadleaf plantain in a sidewalk.
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