Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Plantain

There are five species of plantain which grow in the UK and of these, two are far more common and widespread than the rest.  The Ribbed (or Ribwort) Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and the Greater Plantain (Plantago major).  at this time of year, it's the Greater Plantain which makes its presence felt more than any other and, growing among the grasses of the meadows in these parts, it makes a far more attractive plant than it's colour would suggest.
The large, spoon-shaped leaves are marked with obvious 'stringy' veins and the whole plant gives the impression of being rather tough.  But it is the tall flower spikes which catch the eye during the late summer.  Sometimes reaching 2ft or more tall, each individual flower is, in itself somewhat inconspicuous, but together they form a stately inflorescence.  Greater Plantain has many medicinal uses, not least of which makes use of its antibiotic properties, so that when a poultice of the leaves is applied to cuts, and open wounds, the risk of infection can be reduced.
Now common all over the world, its spread has been largely to do with its seeds being a common contaminant in cereal crops.
Another plant, native to the UK, but which has spread to many other parts of the world, is the Redshank (Persicaria maculosa).  This has apparently become quite widespread and troublesome in parts of the USA and when you consider that it is a member of the Polygonum or Knotweed family, it's not difficult to see why it takes hold so quickly.
Given that the seeds of Redshank can remain viable for 45 years or more, it becomes even more clear that this is going to be one very tenacious plant.  Still rather attractive though - in the right place!
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