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Key to families | Table of families and genera

Specimen numbers are hyperlinked to records in the Consortium of California Herbaria data view where possible. Taxa are hyperlinked to entries in the Jepson Interchange via the "[Online Interchange]" link.



Thomas J. Rosatti

Annual to perennial herb, generally scapose. Stem: decumbent to erect. Leaf: generally basal, veins generally ± parallel. Inflorescence: spike, generally dense; flowers few to many, cleistogamous or opening (both). Flower: generally bisexual; calyx deeply 4-lobed, lobes generally overlapped, persistent, margin generally scarious; corolla radial or bilateral, salverform or cylindric, scarious, persistent in fruit, colorless except for lobe midribs or not, lobes 4, spreading to erect; stamens generally 4; ovules several per chamber, stigma long, hairy. Fruit: circumscissile ± at or proximal to middle. Seed: 2–many, gelatinous when wetted.
± 250 species: worldwide, especially temperate; some weedy, some (especially Plantago afra L., psyllium) cultivated for laxative. (Latin: sole of foot) [Meyers & Liston 2008 Int J Plant Sci 169:954–962] Plantago sempervirens Crantz, Plantago heterophylla Nutt., reported but not documented, possibly naturalized in California.
Unabridged note: 2 species reported but not documented for California: Plantago sempervirens Crantz, native to southern Europe, Turkey, differs from Plantago arenaria in, e.g., habit (dwarf shrub vs annual), corolla tube (4–5 vs 3.5–4 mm), fruit (4–5 vs ± 2 mm); Plantago heterophylla Nutt., native to southeastern North America, differs from Plantago elongata in, e.g., seed number, size [10–25(30), 0.5–0.8 mm vs (3)4–9(12), 1.5–2.5 mm], corolla lobe orientation (generally spreading vs generally 1 erect, 3 spreading or reflexed).

Key to Plantago

1. Leaves cauline; inflorescence axillary, spikes generally in cyme-like clusters at peduncle tip ..... P. arenaria

1' Leaves in basal rosette; inflorescence scapose, with 1 terminal spike

2. Corolla tube hairy; inner side of seed perpendicular to plane between cotyledons (subg. Coronopus)

3. Leaf deeply pinnately lobed; calyx pressed against inflorescence axis (except on re-hydrated material); adaxial sepals each with 1 wide keel or wing on midrib ..... P. coronopus

3' Leaf entire to sparsely dentate; calyx not pressed against inflorescence axis; adaxial sepals each with 0 or 1 narrow keel or wing on midrib ..... P. maritima

2' Corolla tube glabrous; inner side of seed perpendicular to plane between cotyledons to not

4. Seeds (1)2, inner side deep-concave (concavity generally ? 1/2 thickness of seed), perpendicular to plane between cotyledons (subg. Psyllium)

5. Peduncle grooved; abaxial sepals united > 1/2 from base, scarious parts united; green bract midrib not reaching tip ..... P. lanceolata

5' Peduncle not grooved; abaxial sepals united at base, scarious parts free; green bract midrib generally reaching tip

6. Hairs on peduncle generally ± spreading (ascending), each in diam generally << to = 2 × those on leaves ..... P. ovata

7. Corolla lobes generally without red-brown midrib; bract midrib green ..... var. fastigiata

7' Corolla lobes generally with prominent red-brown midrib; bract midrib brown ..... var. insularis

6' Hairs on peduncle nearly always ascending, each in diam ± 2 × those on leaves

8. Bract ovate to round, generally <= calyx, not exserted ..... P. erecta

8' Bract linear, 1–12 × calyx, some or all exserted

9. Bract generally 3–12 × calyx; corolla lobes generally obtuse; plant drying dark green, hairs 0 to ± present ..... P. aristata

9' Bract generally 1–2.5 × calyx; corolla lobes ± acute; plant drying light green, hairs ± dense ..... P. patagonica

4' Seeds 1–many, inner side flat, rarely convex or concave (concavity ? 1/2 thickness of seed), parallel to plane between cotyledons if seeds 1–2, parallel to oblique to perpendicular if seeds > 2 (subg. Plantago)

10. Perennial herb (rarely annual in Plantago major)

11. Leaf widely elliptic to ± cordate, narrowed abruptly to petiole; flower bisexual; corolla lobes spreading to reflexed, ± 0.5 mm; plant with many fibrous roots ..... P. major

11' Leaf oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic-ovate, tapered to wide petiole; flower unisexual or bisexual; corolla lobes spreading, ± 1 mm, or generally erect in pistillate flowers, spreading in staminate, ± 3 mm; plant with 1–2 taproots or many fibrous roots

12. Plant with 1–2 taproots; flower bisexual; corolla lobes spreading, ± 1 mm ..... P. eriopoda

12' Plant with many fibrous roots; flower unisexual; corolla lobes generally erect in pistillate flowers, spreading in staminate, ± 3 mm ..... P. subnuda

10' Annual, biennial

13. Leaf widely oblanceolate to obovate or elliptic, tapered to petiole, entire to ± toothed

14. Abaxial sepals 2.7–3.6 mm, acuminate to mucronate; seeds 2.5–3 mm, generally red to red-brown, with concavity on inner side < 1/2 thickness of seed ..... P. rhodosperma

14' Abaxial sepals 1.5–2.4 mm, obtuse; seeds 1.5–2 mm, pale brown, with concavity on inner side ± 1/2 thickness of seed ..... P. virginica

13' Leaf thread-like to narrowly oblanceolate, tapered to base, generally entire

15. Leaf narrowly oblanceolate; corolla lobes ± 2–3 mm; inflorescence axis generally not visible between flowers; flowers unisexual, stamens 0 or 4 ..... P. truncata subsp. firma

15' Leaf thread-like to linear; corolla lobes ± 0.5 mm; inflorescence axis generally at least partially visible between flowers; flowers bisexual, stamens 2

16. Corolla lobes generally 1 erect, 3 spreading or reflexed; seeds (3)4–9(12) per fruit, 1.5–2.5 mm; California Floristic Province (except High Cascade Range, s Sierra Nevada Foothills, High Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi Mountain Area) ..... P. elongata

16' Corolla lobes generally erect; seeds 4 per fruit, 0.7–1.8 mm; San Joaquin Valley, South Coast (San Diego Co.) ..... P. pusilla


Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) [year] Jepson eFlora, [accessed on month, day, year]
Citation for an individual treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] [year]. [Taxon name] in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, [URL for treatment]. Accessed on [month, day, year].
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