The Hoary Plantain (Plantago media L., 1753) is a perennial herbaceous species belonging to the Plantaginaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species P. media.
The terms are synonymous:
– Arnoglossum incanum Gray;
– Plantago bertolonii Godr .;
– Plantago brutia (Ten.) Arcang. (synonym of the brutia subspecies);
– Plantago media subsp. nevadensis (Willk.) Malag .;
– Plantago media subsp. stepposa (Kuprian.) Soó;
– Plantago media var. longifolia G. Mey. (synonym of the subspecies longifolia);
– Plantago media var. pindica Hausskn. (synonym of the subspecies pindica);
– Plantago media var. urvilleana (Rapin) Hultén;
– Plantago oblongifolia Schur;
– Plantago plicata Schott, Nyman & Kotschy;
– Plantago stepposa Kuprian .;
– Plantago urvillei Opiz.
Within this species, in addition to the nominal species, also present in Italy, the following subspecies are recognized:
– Plantago media L. subsp. brutia (Ten.) Arcang., 1882 – Which has a more elliptical spike (10 x 15-25 mm), the leaves are more enlarged (3 x 5-6 cm) with a more evident dentition, the bracts of the inflorescence are more acute and as long as the calyx, the lobes of the corolla are more acute. It is present in Italy, on the Pollino;
– Plantago media L. subsp. longifolia (G. Mey.) Witte, 1906 – Present in the Czech Republic;
– Plantago media L. subsp. pindica (Hausskn.) Greuter & Burdet – Present in the Balkan Peninsula.
The term Plantago comes from plánta sole of the foot: similar to the sole of the foot, referring to the size of the leaves of the greater plantain.
The specific medium epithet comes from the adjective medius medium, intermediate: intermediate in size compared to that of other congenital species.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Plantago media is a plant with a prevalent distribution in southern Europe but up to the latitude of Great Britain included) and in temperate Asia.
In Italy it is a common species in the North and Center, rarer in the South. It is not present in the islands. In the Alps it is present everywhere both on the Italian and the northern side. It is present on all the other European mountains connected to the Alps: Black Forest, Vosges, Jura Massif, Central Massif, Pyrenees, Dinaric Alps, Balkan Mountains and Carpathians. It is also found in Anatolia.
Its habitat is that of fields, meadows and cultivated land, especially on dry or calcareous soils but also siliceous with basic-neutral pH, low nutritional values of the soil that must be dry, where it grows up to 2000 m a.s.l.
Hoary Plantain is a perennial herb that grows to 20-40cm.
The flower stems are erect, not furrowed.
The leaves have a basal rosette, applied to the ground, broadly ovate, pointed, subentive, pubescent, attenuated into a short petiole, with 5-9 prominent ribs below.
The flowers are hermaphrodite, regular gathered in cylindrical spikes
Each ear is cylindrical, tight, 2-8 cm long, which reaches 15 cm in fruiting. The flowers are fragrant and have a corolla about 4 mm long, tubular, compressed, glabrous, with 4 whitish, enlarged, ovate-acute lobes. The stamens are 4, protruding, with white anthers and lilac streaks.
The fruit is a glabrous, ovoid capsule (pyxidium), 3-4 x 2-2.5 mm, with (2) 4 (6) hemiellipsoid seeds with flat internal face, brown, of 1.8-2.2 x 0.8-1 mm.
Plantago media is a perennial plant that is harvested in nature for local use as a food, medicine, and source of materials.
It is a plant that grows in practically any moderately fertile soil but in a sunny position and develops in spring especially in meadows.
The plant lends itself to easy cultivation and can be propagated by seed with sowing to be carried out in spring in a cold seedbed. As soon as the seedlings have the useful size they should be planted in individual pots and transplanted in late spring or early summer depending on the latitude.
It can also be sown directly in the open field from mid to late spring if you have enough seeds.
Customs and Traditions –
Hoary Plantain is a plant that has long been used for both medicinal and food purposes.
For food use, the young leaves, raw or cooked, are edible.
The very young leaves have a fairly mild flavor but with a slight bitterness and can be used in salads before they get tough.
The inflorescence is sweet and is sucked by children.
For medicinal use, both the leaves, the flowering stems and the roots are used which are somewhat astringent, de-obstructing, purifying, diuretic, expectorant, hemostatic, refrigerant and vulnerary.
According to folk medicine, in summary, this plant has the following medicinal properties:
– astringent (limits the secretion of liquids);
– emollient (resolves an inflammatory state);
– purifying (facilitates the disposal of impurities);
– diuretic (facilitates the release of urine);
– expectorant (promotes the expulsion of bronchial secretions);
– haemostatic (blocks the flow of blood in case of bleeding);
– emollient (resolves an inflammatory state);
– laxative (has purgative properties);
– ophthalmic (facilitates the flow of blood to the eyes and therefore strengthens resistance to infections).
The seeds are emollient and laxative and contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the intestines, acting as a bulk laxative and soothes irritated membranes. In some cases, the husks of the seeds are used without the seeds.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that the leaves are used to combat downy mildew on fruit trees.
Preparation Method –
Plantago media is a plant that is used both in the kitchen and in the pharmacy.
In the kitchen you can use the young cooked leaves or in salads.
The central leaves of the rosette are usually collected until they are too large and leathery. Since the plant is very strong, you can even cut all the leaves, so that, next time, you will be sure to find the young leaves that fit your table. The collection can be carried out without fear of compromising the species given its considerable diffusion.
The leaves are excellent as a green salad, if you are careful to choose only the most tender ones. This is a highly recommended use to fully save the vitamin A and C content of which the plant is rich.
It is also an excellent plant for preparing exquisite soups. It is often combined with other plants, boiled and seasoned with oil and aromatic vinegar. When cooked it has the property of dyeing the dishes in which it is present green.
Pharmaceutical use is linked to its properties described above and its fresh juice, roots and seeds are used. The juice of the leaves is used against insect bites, the grated roots for toothache, with calming properties.
The leaves are applied externally for skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, etc.
A leaf-based mouthwash helps relieve toothache, and distilled water is a good eye drop.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Photo source: https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/plantago/major/
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.