War on Weeds: Buckhorn plantain

Chris Evan, University of Illinois

Chris Evan, University of Illinois

This weed may invade your land. Be ready to oppose it.

The Enemy: Buckhorn plantain or narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.)

Strategy: This is a perennial plant from Eurasia has fiberous roots and invades lawns, pastures, gardens and roadsides. Most people mistake it for a grass until the dense spike of very small flowers are developed. Leaves have parallel running veins like grasses, but are much more prevalent. When flowering, the plant sends up 6-inch leafless stalks that produce a black conelike inflorescence at the tip. The small flowers produce small black seeds that spread quite easily. In fact, most people who flood irrigate will get this as it loves higher water tables and floats down the ditches to invade all areas.

Attack: This plant is very aggressive in moist areas. As it is not the most desirable forage (livestock will graze the grasses first and eat this last), it spreads quickly through the invaded sites. It also makes lawns rough and bumpy. Mostly, it removes the valuable nutrients and water that the more desirable plants need for survival.

Defense: Mechanical removal is effective if you only have a plant or two. Unfortunately, the plant only gets noticed after it has fully invaded the site. Herbicides are the most effective. In lawns, try Trimec or any three-way type herbicide. A couple of applications may be necessary. In pastures, I really like Opensight/Chaparrel at 3.3 ounces per acre. Fall is an excellent time to kill the existing plant and keep it out most of next season. Tordon 22K or Banvel-based products as well are effective early in the spring or late fall, as fall is usually the best time to control perennial plants. Proper identification is key to addressing this and other weeds so call your local weed professional for help.

To learn more, call Bonneville County Weed Superintendent Jeffrey Pettingill at 208-529-1397 or email weeds@co.bonneville.id.us.