Category: Plantaginaceae

  • Common Plantain (Plantago major)

    Insignificant and ubiquitous, this common weed is nevertheless elegantly constructed, as a close view of the flower spike shows us.  The plant lifts a number of green obelisks into the air from a rosette of spoon-shaped leaves, and dozens or hundreds of tiny white flowers burst forth  along each obelisk. The show is over quickly, leaving nothing but a weedy green stem, but it’s worth getting out a magnifying glass while the flowers are in bloom.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    PLANTÀGO [Tourn.] L. PLANTAIN. RIBWORT. Calyx of 4 imbricated persistent sepals, mostly with dry membranaceous margins. Corolla salver-form or rotate, withering on the pod, the border 4-parted. Stamens 4, or rarely 2, in all or some flowers with long and weak exserted filaments, and fugacious 2-celled anthers. Ovary 2 (or in no. 6 [P. decipiens] falsely 3-4)-celled, with 1-several ovules in each cell. Style and long hairy stigma single, filiform. Capsule 2-celled, 2-several-seeded, opening transversely, во that the top falls off like a lid and the loose partition (which bears the peltate seeds) falls away. Embryo straight, in fleshy albumen. — Leaves ribbed. Flowers whitish, small, in a bracted spike or head, raised on a naked scape. (The Latin name.)

    P. major L. (common P.) Smooth or rather hairy, sometimes roughish; leaves thick and leathery, 0.6-3 dm. long, the blade from broad-elliptic to cordateovate, undulate or more or less toothed, the broad petiole channeled; scapes 1.6-0 dm. high, commonly curved-ascending; spike dense, obtuse, becoming 1-4 dm. long; sepals round-ovate or obovate; capsule ovoid, circumscissile near the middle, 8-18-seeded; seeds angled, reticulated. — Waysides and near dwellings, exceedingly common. Fig. 002.—Sometimes with leafy-bracted scapes or with paniculate-branched inflorescences. (Cosmopolitan.)

  • Speedwell (Veronica officinalis)

    Surely these would be some of our most treasured ornamentals if they were just a little larger. Other members of the genus Veronica find honored places in our gardens, but the tiny Common Speedwells pass unnoticed under our lawn mowers. They’re worth examining closely. Magnified, as here, they turn out to be spectacular flowers. They’re found everywhere lawn grass is found; this one was blooming in Mount Lebanon at the end of April.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:


    The lateral lobes of the corolla or the lowest one commonly narrower than the others. Stamens 2, one each side of the upper lobe of the corolla, exserted; anther-cells confluent at the apex. Style entire; stigma single. Capsule flat- tened, obtuse or notched at the apex, 2-celled, few-many-seeded. Chiefly herbs ; flowers blue, flesh-color, or white. (Derivation doubtful; perhaps the flower of St. Veronica.)

    V. officinalis L. (COMMON S.) Pubescent; stem prostrate, rooting at base ; leaves short-petioled, obovate-elliptical or wedge-oblong, obtuse, serrate; racemes densely many-flowered; pedicels shorter than the calyx; capsule obovate- triangular, broadly notched. Dry hills and open woods, Nfd. to Ont., Mich., and southw. May-Aug. (Eurasia.)

  • Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica)

    A common lawn weed that’s so tiny we usually overlook it. Up close, however, the sky-blue flowers are beautiful, and they are among the first wild flowers to appear in spring. This plant was blooming two days before the official beginning of spring in a lawn in Beechview.

  • Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)


    Snapdragons are popular garden flowers that originate in the Mediterranean region, where they grow as perennials. Here thay’re happy to grow as annuals, liberally seeding themselves and popping up in unlikely places. This one was part of a small colony growing from a little crack in the pavement at the edge of a street in Beechview, where it was happily blooming in early November. They can bloom till Christmas if there are no very hard freezes.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    Calyx 5-parted. Corolla-tube saccate or gibbous in front, not spurred; the lower lip 3-lobed, spreading, developed at the base into a prominent palate, which nearly or quite closes the throat; upper lip erect, shortly 2-lobed. Stamens 4, didynamous, included; anther-cells distinct and parallel. Ours herbaceous plants with lance-oblong to linear entire leaves and axillary or racemose flowers. (Name from anti, in the sense of like, and rhis, a snout, in reference doubtless to the peculiar form of the corolla.)

    A. MAJUS L. Perennial, glandular-pubescent and somewhat viscid; leaves lance-oblong; calyx-lobes ovate or oblong, short; corolla crimson, white, or variegated, 2-3 cm. long. Commonly cultivated, and occasionally found as an escape. (Introd. from Eu.)