Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Sonoran Desert Flora >>> Plantaginaceae >>> Plantago ovata

Woolly Plantain
Desert Indianwheat

Plantago ovata

Photo © by Michael Plagens

Scanned from specimen found at Saddle Mountain, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 01 March 2008.

ANNUAL: Common to abundant early spring annual of desert flats and rocky slopes. Occasionally this plant can dominate wide areas of desert pavement after winters with good rain. Plants can be a few centemeters to as much as 15 cm tall.

FLOWERS: Green with beige to white papery bracts arranged in a dense, conical spike above the plant.

LEAVES: Leaves are long and narrow - almost grass like and mostly in a basal cluster. Finely pubescent.

RANGE: Frequent throughout the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico on gentle slopes, desert flats and at roadsides.

FRUIT: Dry, two-seeded capsule. Importantly the seeds are coated in a mucilaginous substance - often the seeds are so abundant that this mucilage searves to glue the top soil over vast areas into place. Plantago ovata thus serves to protect the soil agains especially wind erosion and should be considered a keystone species. These seeds are also a source for Psyllium which is used as a bulk soluable fiber dietary laxative.

UNARMED. No spines

Plantaginaceae -- Plantain Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009