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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Buckhorn plantain  (Plantago lanceolata)

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Life stages of Buckhorn plantain Inflorescence Mature plant Seedling Mature plant in turf

Buckhorn plantain is an annual, biennial, or perennial broadleaf plant, found throughout California to about 5200 feet (1600 m), except in deserts and the Great Basin. It inhabits agricultural land and other disturbed sites. In apples, it is a host for rosy apple aphid, which reduces yield. Members of the plantain family form basal rosettes and have leafless spikes of inconspicuous flowers. Buckhorn plantain is more tolerant of drought than other plantains. Some buckhorn plantain biotypes can tolerate soils with high heavy metal levels.


Vineyards, orchards, gardens, urban sites, landscaped areas, footpaths, roadsides, turf, crop fields, and other disturbed areas.


Cotyledons are needlelike, fuse at the base, and hairless. The first and subsequent few leaves are narrow, oblong lance shaped, about 4/5 to 1-1/2 inches (20–40 mm) long, and have an especially hairy base gradually tapering to a winged stalk. True leaves are broader, pale green, and have prominent parallel veins.

Mature plant

Leaves are football shaped; about 3 to 10 inches (8–25 cm) long, and usually have short hairs (or occasionally long hairs). The leaves spiral around a very short stem, clustering around the base of plant. Flower stalks grow up to roughly to 2-1/2 feet (80 cm) tall. Buckhorn plantain has narrower leaves and shorter flower head stalks than that of broadleaf plantain, Plantago major. Buckhorn plantain has simple or branched taproots and, at times, a weakly developed taproot.


Flowering takes place from April through August. Flower heads consist of leafless, slender spikes of inconspicuous flowers clustered densely along an upright flowering head, usually 4/5 to 3 inches (2–8 cm) long, excluding the stalk. Initially the flower head looks egg shaped. Open flowers have protruding white structures called stamens (male flower part).


Fruits consist of egg-shaped capsules roughly 1/6 of an inch (4 mm) long that open below the middle, similar to a cap or a lid. There are usually one to two seeds per capsule.


Seeds are oblong and brown. One side is rounded and glossy with a light brown stripe.


Reproduces by seed.

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