Plantago elongata (Slender Plantain)
|Also known as:||Prairie Plantain|
|Habitat:||sun; saline or alkaline soil; vernal pools in rock outcrops, muddy seeps, wet meadows|
|Bloom season:||April - June|
|Plant height:||1 to 7 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Slender spike up to 2 inches long at the end of a hairy but otherwise naked stem. Flowers are minute, and largely inconspicuous but for the extended pair of purplish-tipped stamens and filament-like styles, densely arranged along a narrow, green spike. The 4 triangular to egg-shaped petals are papery, white to tinged purple, spreading or reflexed back at the tip of the larger egg-shaped calyx. Thick, green, hairless, lance-oval shaped sepals and a similar sized keel-like bract are at the base. A plant typically has several flowering stems, sprouting up in succession.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are all basal, erect to ascending, linear to thread-like, ½ to 2¾ inches long, less than 1/10 inch wide, toothless, hairless, and pointed at the tip. Stems are slender, erect, usually multiple from the base, covered in long white hairs that are typically matted or curled, more densely hairy just below the flowering spike.
A rare species in Minnesota, Slender Plaintain reaches the eastern edge of its range in our extreme southwest counties. According to the DNR, it was first recorded in 1931 and only 3 locations were known until biological surveys in the southwest counties in 2006-2008 discovered 7 new, and rather sizable, populations. In Minnesota it is largely restricted to vernal pools and seeps in rock outcrops, and was listed as a Threatened species in 1984, considered at risk from over-grazing and from gravel mining. It was downgraded to Special Concern in 2013, considering the size of the newly found populations, and after determining it tolerated grazing better than previously thought. Slender Plantain's specialized habitat, linear and hairless leaves, hairy stems, and diminutive size make it distinct from other Plantago species in Minnesota.
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Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in North Dakota.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?