Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Weedy Wednesday: Plantain By Any Other Name Is Still A WEED!

When does a weed become a desirable plant?  It happens you know.  All it takes is some plant addicted person finding a weed that is sporting something unusual, like variegated or reddish leaves instead of just green and suddenly we find that plant marketed as the latest coolest thing and rocketing to garden stardom.  It will be found in magazines and in the gardens of plant collectors and addicts alike.  That is exactly where I found Plantago major 'Atropurpurea', AKA Purple leaf Plantain the first time I saw it, in a well thought of national gardening magazine.  I think every magazine featured it at one time or another.  Resistance was futile.

Early in the season in my good friend Rae's garden.

I remember when I first saw it in that photo, grown so perfectly, so lush looking, I moaned with desire.  At that moment it seemed all self control fell away and that feeling that I had to have that plant or I was gonna die came over me.  So the first chance I got I bought one for some ridiculous price.  Yes, I paid money for a weed! Then as luck would have it, somehow I managed to kill my designer weed!  Can you believe it!?!  Why doesn't common Plantain that grows everywhere in my garden die?  Why does it have to be the designer version that I PAID for!  As I've said before, Murphy, the one who wrote those laws, he works in my garden evidently.

Another cousin, Plantago lanceolata in the Hell strip at the end of the driveway.

Because this plant by nature is really no different than its weedy cousin, it will more than likely haunt the gardens of the future.  I knew this before I planted it but felt sure I would be able to control its bad habit and I made sure I gathered the seeds.  But I couldn't just throw them away!  Being a good plant addict I shared them with my gardening pals too.  I figured if I missed a few that was all right too because I'd have starts to share next year at plant swaps.  What was I thinking?  I shared weed seeds and plants with my buddies!!! Ugh...

Up close and playing well with others it seems to be so benign.

The American Indians have a name for Plantain...“White Man’s Footprint”.  They named it that because it grew where ever white men had been which gives us a HUGE clue as to how it spread across the country.  You think we would take note of such historic monikers but oh no, not us.  We plant addicts are an odd breed and because we/I distinguished it's progeny as desirable and even fashionable and usable in our gardens we ignore such neon warnings.  Its glory days are numbered though and it will be a fond memory for some of us and for others...just another weed.

This brings me to this thought; when it comes to plants, one man’s treasure is another man’s curse and so I can see quite easily how this designer weed will someday be added to the "plants of my ongoing suffering" list.  Just look at how history has proven that to be the case.  Will we ever learn...probably not, history says we are who we are and plant addicts are quite visible in every generation.  Well, at least I'm in good company.

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  1. Can you eat it? Don't even try to turn me into a non-edible plant addict. It'll never happen. Never, I swear.

  2. Gardening Jones...I don't know if I should tell you this or not ;-) The young leaves may be added to salads and the seeds are edible too and can be ground into flour. The leaves are also medicinal.

    If that isn't bad enough, I was poking around this morning and guess what I found? More really cool looking types of P. major!!!! Oh and the plants range from $4.50 per plant to $7.00. FOR A DESIGNER WEED! Here's a link if you are interested.