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Buckhorn Plantain

Plant Description: Buckhorn plantain is a low growing, rosette-forming perennial. Distinctive characteristics include long, narrow leaves that have prominent parallel veins and inconspicuous flowers in dense clusters located at the end of erect, leafless flowering stems. Surrounding each flower cluster is what appears to be a ring or halo consisting of pollen-bearing anthers protruding from the centers of the flowers. The species reproduces by seeds.

Buckhorn plantain has spread all over the world with the exception of a few areas in the sub-arctic. It is believed that the species entered North America as a contaminant of crop seeds. Buckhorn plantain is naturalized throughout Georgia. It is a common weed in turf grass, landscapes, dry pastures, cultivated fields, open woods, shores, riverbanks, roadsides, and waste places. The species prefers soils that are dry and hard-packed. It is highly resistant to drought.Buckhorn Plantain flower head

First 2 leaves to emerge (cotyledons) are grass-like, smooth, narrow, and have a depression on the upper surface. The 2 leaves that follow have hairy edges. Subsequent leaves are sparsely hairy. All leaves are basal forming a rosette. The erect flowering stems (scapes) are less than 12 inches tall, leafless, unbranched, and terminate in a cluster of small, inconspicuous flowers. Several stems may emerge from a single root system. Mature leaves are thin, pale green, lance-shaped, 2 to 10 inches long, and less than 1 inch wide. Leaves have 3 to 5 prominent veins running parallel to the leaf edge. Leaves gradually narrow at the base into a short leaf stalk (petiole). The leaf edge may be smooth or slightly toothed. Flowers are comprised of inconspicuous, papery, brownish or yellow petals and are borne in short, dense, oval clusters located at the end of an upright flowering stem. The long, pollen-bearing flower structures (stamens) that protrude from the center of each flower form a ring or halo around the cluster.

Buckhorn Plantain seedlingSimilar Species: Blackseed plantain (Plantago rugelii) and broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) are related species that appear similar except they have oval-shaped leaves and their flower clusters are not as compressed. Hoary plantain (Plantago media) also looks similar except its leaves are elliptic and covered with wooly hairs.

Flowering occurs in June through September. When wet, seeds develop a sticky mucilaginous cover that causes them to adhere to soil particles and animals. Because seeds readily germinate in darkness, buckhorn plantain can establish in shade under dense vegetation. Emergence of seedlings tends to be concentrated in compressed or depressed microsites, such as footprints made by animals. Often, plants form new shoots at the base producing a clump of rosettes sharing the same root system. The plant tolerates close mowing but does not survive in areas where it is routinely trampled.