Perennial herb with fibrous roots flowering stem 10 - 20 cm tall Leaves: basal, spreading, stalked, 5 - 20 cm long (including stalk), elliptic to reverse egg-shaped to reverse lance-shaped with a tapering base and tapering or pointed tip, sometimes wavy to coarsely toothed along the margins, more or less parallel-veined, seven- to nine-veined, finely hairy. Inflorescence: a dense, narrowly conic to cylindrical spike of many flowers, arising from a leafless stalk (scape), 2 - 10 cm long. Flowers: stalkless or nearly stalkless, whitish to pinkish, subtended by egg-shaped bracts, fragrant. Stamens four, exserted, alternate with corolla lobes. Anthers yellow. Style one. Sepals: four, to 2.5 mm long, rounded to broadly egg-shaped, broadly scarious-margined (dry, thin, and membranous), strongly keeled. Fruit: a dehiscent capsule (circumscissile), about 3 mm long, ellipsoidal. Seeds two to four, brown, about 2 mm long, flat. Corolla: four-lobed, scarious (dry, thin, membranous).
Similar species: Plantago major is similar but has plump seeds and flowers that are not fragrant. Plantago virginica is also similar but has corollas that close over the maturing capsules and flowers that are not fragrant.
Flowering: June to September
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from Eurasia. This weed of waste ground is rare in the Chicago Region. It is known only from a roadside collection in Cook County.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Etymology: Plantago comes from the Latin word planta, meaning footprint. Media means intermediate.
Fibrous-rooted perennial; lvs spreading, elliptic to obovate or oblanceolate, acute or tapering at each end, 1-2 dm (petiole included); scapes 1-2 dm, strigose above; spikes dense, narrowly conic, becoming cylindric, 3-10 cm at maturity; bracts and sep subequal, broadly ovate, with broad scarious margins; sep separate; fr thickly ellipsoid, 3 mm, circumscissile at the middle; seeds 2-4, 2 mm; superficially like no. 7 [Plantago lanceolata L.], except for the broader lvs; 2n=12, 24. Native of Eurasia, occasionally found as a weed in waste places in our range.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.