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Relative of the plantain, a plant cultivated since the 16th century, it has dark green, decorative leaves that resemble deer antlers. The young leaves are enjoyed in salads, the others are treated like spinach.

Need in heat

Need in fertilizer

Recommended break (crop rotation)
3-4 years

30 cm between rows, 5 cm on the row




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Scientific name: Plantago herbacea L.

Family: Plantaginaceae

Brief history and botanical notes on the plant
The name of the family derives (as in many other cases) from the name of its most important genus: Plantago, and was defined by the French botanist Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu (1748 – 1836) in one of his works entitled Genera Plantarum, secundum ordinis naturales disposita juxta methodum in Horto Regio Parisiensi exaratam in 1789.
After the inclusion of the new genera, the Plantaginaceae family has transformed into a very heterogeneous group. The habit of these plants can be herbaceous, but also shrubby. The biological cycle can be annual or perennial. Some genera are even aquatic.
The roots can be taproot or secondary from rhizome or stoloniferous.
The stems are erect, prostrate, climbing, thread-like but also robust and woody at the base.
There are species with only basal leaves, others with cauline leaves as well. The basal ones generally form a rosette and the petiole is actually just the extension of the central rib which, as it lengthens, inserts itself into the stem. Often these leaves have the upper surface furrowed by conspicuous parallel veins (parallelinervie). The cauline ones are arranged oppositely, alternate or spiral and always without stipules.
Some genera have inflorescences with an elongated spike (genus Plantago) or globose (genus Globularia), others with single flowers (genus Cymbalaria). The flowers of the spike inflorescences are richly bracteate.
Pollination for these species can be of various types, both anemogamous or anemophilous (via the wind) and entomophilous (via insects). Some genera have a protogynous gynoecium, meaning the ovules ripen before the pollen.
The seeds can be endospermatic.
The majority of species in this family are found in extra-tropical areas (or tropical but at mountain altitudes). Given the heterogeneity of the family, the habitat cannot be defined univocally.


The species used in popular pharmacopoeia and herbal medicine:
– Plantago psyllium (Psyllium)
– Plantago major, has large, broad and broad leaves and longer petiolates
– Plantago lanceolata, very common in grassy places on the plains, hills and low mountains.
Plantain, considered of Eurasian origin, has become cosmopolitan over time, as it has spread throughout the planet. It is believed that the name Plantain derives from the Latin "planta", which indicates the footprint of the foot, due to the shape of the flat and enlarged leaves of some species of the family.

Plantago lanceolata is also called Lanciola, Cinquenervi, Mestolaccio, Dog's tongue, Hare's ear, Arnoglossa (from the Greek: lamb's tongue), due to the shape and appearance of the leaves, oval, quite narrow and elongated.

The Plantain is easily identified by the characteristic shape of its leaves, furrowed by five very evident parallel veins and equipped with a sort of petiole, formed by the extension of the leaf itself, gathered in a basal rosette adhering to the ground, acàule (without stem), from the center of which emerges the flower stem 10 to 50 cm high, which bears the characteristic terminal cylindrical spike inflorescence, from which numerous small flowers protrude with long stamens bearing yellowish-white anthers, which give the inflorescence a feathery appearance.
Pollination is mainly carried out by the wind (anemophilous) and the flowering period goes from April to October.

The fruit is a brown oval capsule which, when ripe, opens releasing one or two brown ovoid seeds, much sought after by birds; the seeds are produced in large numbers, increasing the diffusion capacity of this very undemanding species.
In fact, it is very common in meadows, at the edges of roads, around country houses, among ruins, in vineyards, in pastures, in uncultivated places, along the banks of rivers and streams, or as a pest in garden flowerbeds. It grows very well in humid places, but adapts equally well to dry soils, it is widespread from the plains up to 1800-2000 meters above sea level, and can be found in almost all seasons, except for periods in which the cold is very intense or there is snow, but already at the beginning of February we can see it appearing in the sunniest meadows.

The leaves are often grazed by grazing animals, forming part of the composition of the permanent polyphytic meadow. Even with heavy trampling, the plant survives and regenerates continuously, as it is equipped with a large rhizome from whose collar new leaves always emerge.
In poor soil it is easily cultivable and propagates by rhizome.
The species is endowed with medicinal properties which make it particularly sought after for the herbal market: it is extensively cultivated in Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and Ethiopia. This type of cultivation requires adequate preparation of the land (levelling) which must be very flat to facilitate mechanical harvesting so that cultivation is profitable, since the leaves are just 20-25 cm high.
Harvest period: the roots are harvested all year round, the leaves and seeds from May to September.
The medicinal properties of plantain were also known in ancient times: numerous Greek and Latin scholars have handed down information about its medicinal use, such as Dioscorides, who recommended it for dysentery, while Pliny defined it as a "magic herb" for its numerous properties. healing.
It can be eaten raw in salads, choosing the most tender leaves, or boiled like chard, or, mixed with other vegetables, in minestrone and soups.

Recent studies have confirmed the medicinal properties attributed to this plant by popular traditions.

Plantain contains iridoid glycosides, of which the most significant is aucubin, flavonoids (luteolin), mucilages, tannins, pectins, salicylic acid, mineral salts, especially zinc and potassium, vitamins A, C, and K.

The parts of the plant with medicinal properties are the leaves, which are harvested before flowering from June to August, when they are well developed and rich in active ingredients.

Plantain has bechic, expectorant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, astringent properties, and is indicated for inflammation of the throat and respiratory tract in general, such as cough, bronchial catarrh, chronic bronchitis, hay fever, sinusitis, and for inflammation of the mucous membranes. of the mouth and urogenital system.
It can be used in the form of an infusion or decoction, also associated with other balsamic and expectorant plants such as Altea, Mallow, Icelandic Lichen, Eucalyptus, Thyme, Grindelia, Helichrysum, or in a fluid extract, or in syrup, to calm coughs and dissolve phlegm, and as a soothing and anti-inflammatory adjuvant in case of whooping cough and bronchial asthma. The mucilages contribute to the soothing action by stratifying on the walls of the bronchial mucous membranes, thus protecting them from further aggression.

For external use, Plantain is healing, soothing, anti-itching, anti-redness, so it is indicated in cases of dermatosis, small skin lesions, acne rosacea, eyelid and eye inflammation, even of an allergic nature.

While the pollen (but not the plant) of Plantago lanceolata can be a frequent cause of allergic rhinitis, the fresh leaves have anti-allergic properties, due to the antihistamine action of aucubin; they are useful in case of insect bites, applied locally using a bandage, minced after careful washing in boiled water, or rubbed vigorously on the bite, to soothe inflammation, swelling, itching and burning. Due to its high mucilage content, Plantago lanceolata can also be used in the cosmetic field, as an ingredient in specific moisturizing creams for dry and dehydrated skin. Plantain is considered a safe plant with no contraindications, even suitable for children.

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