Saturday, September 26, 2015

Plant Hero: Plantain - Plantago major

Every gardener, every hiker, and every outdoors person needs to familiarize themselves with this plant.

Plaintain - Plantago major
I have come to rely on Plantain - Plantago major every time mosquitos are at their worst and now -  late summer/ early autumn, especially when wasps are at their wildest frenzy.

Thankfully, it grows everywhere. I see it growing in pavement cracks:

Found in turf:

Interlocking stone:

You can find it nearly anywhere.  It likes disturbed soil too. You can find it along roadsides - you name it. Plantain has such a huge tolerance for drought, sunny spots and for shade too.

I get stung by wasps weekly and if it were not for Plantain, I would be rather miserable and unable to cope with working outdoors.

Please familiarize yourself to ID this plant.

Notable Plant Characteristics:
Deep leaf veins
Leathery thick foliage
Dark green foliage
Wrinkly leaves
Flat growth habit: it can grow right along the ground - gets missed by the lawn mower
Leaves are joined at one base
In soil, there are usually more than one plant grouped together, like in the very first photo above

If you're lucky, you'll see its flower and seed stalk. It stands above the foliage and looks like a bottle brush. Brown when aged and seeds are ripe.

How to use: once your skin gets bitten or stung, take a leaf and squish it between your fingers to release the plant juice.

Rub all over the bitten/stung area with this mushy, wet paste. Within seconds, you begin to notice the difference. Get another leaf and repeat.

Yesterday, I was stung by a hornet. I will admit, it took about 3 leaves worth of paste, but finally the pain subsided after a minute or two - to the point where I could continue working without a throbbing hand. I react to hornet stings terribly.

I also use the leaves when I have a blister. I take a fresh leaf and place it over my toe or the ankle and then put on my shoe. The leaf, remaining intact, relieves the soreness and the hurt from the blister as I walk and move about.

Plantago major has active chemical compounds in its leaves: aucubin (which is an anti-microbial agent), allantoin (which helps stimulate cellular growth) and mucilage (which helps reduce pain, swelling and discomfort).

Several books I read, state it is edible and used medicinally for other health benefits.  It can also be used to help ease the discomfort of poison ivy.

Overall - a God send. I have transplanted several on my property. I always have an ample supply and don't remove it from my lawn.

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