Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Heartleaf Plantain - Plantago cordata   Lamarck
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Section 6 » Order Plantaginales » Family Plantaginaceae
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AuthorLamarck
DistributionRestricted to a highly specialized habitat, in the central Piedmont -- known from a few sites in just two counites -- Davidson and Stanly.

This is a scarce species in its range, from NY to WI, and south to northern FL and northern AR; very rare in most states other than MO.
AbundanceVery rare in the Piedmont, limited to a few sites near each other. This is a State Endangered species.
HabitatIn NC, it is restricted to slate-bottomed creeks, where it roots within the creek as a semi-aquatic species, though nearly all of the plant extends far above the creek surface.
PhenologyFlowers in March and April, and fruits in May and June.
IdentificationThis species has several huge basal leaves, each broadly heart-shaped to ovate, with a cordate base, about 6-8" long and 4-5" wide, ascending at a roughly 45-degree angle from the water. The flowering scape reaches about 8" tall, with most of it containing a very narrow but densely-flowered spike of tiny flowers. As the flowers have papery petals, they are insignificant to identification, and it is the very large leaves (with the cordate bases) and the slate-creek habitat that characterize this very rare species. A few other Plantago species have fairly large ovate to broadly elliptical leaves, but they have tapered bases and are not normally over 6" long.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Water Plantain
State RankS1
Global RankG4
State StatusE
US Status
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