Buckhorn plantain (Plantago lancelota) is a type of weed found in many different regions across the world. It is also known, variously, as black-jacks, hen plant, jackstraw, ribwort, and snake plantain.
It is a common sight in dry climates and can be found in abundance throughout the Midwestern United States. It favors neutral to basic soil types and is distinct for its ability to germinate in relative darkness. While the weed is sensitive to traffic stress, it displays remarkably hardy properties in other areas. It can successfully grow and mature even if surrounded by dense grasses or turf. However, it is rarely found in acidic soil.
In North America, it is treated as an invasive weed, because it proliferates and can produce upwards of 10,000 seeds in a single season. Early evidence of the plant suggests that it originated in Eurasia and was first introduced to the Americas as a contaminant in crop seeds. If you are dealing with this weed, the hiring of a licensed lawn service who can obtain commercial grade weed control products is advised.
Buckhorn plantain can be tricky to remove due to its resistance to low mowing heights. To identify this weed in your yard, look for long, narrow leaves with distinct parallel veins and small clusters of creamy brown and white flowers.
The stems are usually below 12 inches long and grow without leaves (the leaves are found at the base). There are long pollen-carrying stamens that protrude outwards from the middle of each flower and create a halo shape around each cluster.
Historically, the weed has been used to treat insect bites. The leaves are crushed and applied to the skin as a poultice. It is still a common ingredient in herbal remedies and teas. In traditional Austrian medicine, buckhorn plantain is used to make cough syrup.
While it is not known to carry any kind of toxins, the large amounts of pollen may irritate hay fever sufferers.