Sunday, 26 June 2011

Plantago (26 JUN 2011)

While we were perched in the willow tree during school lunch-break, my companions would etch their sweethearts' names into the bark; I would etch "Sammy".  I loved him/her, but I was afraid at the same time. Returning home from school, I would don my wellington boots and run around the garden in a distressed state, chased by Sammy who couldn't resist jumping up and scratching my knees in its excitement.

My mother didn't think it was worth spending hard-earned money on rabbit food. She had an arrangement with the greengrocer around the corner, relieving him of his mouldy lettuce on her way home from work. I still remember how disgusting those mucus-coated leaves were. I thought she was mean, considering that her roses were surrounded by tumbling piles of Sammy's perfectly-formed, spherical droppings; much more palatable than the sacks of horse manure at the bottom of the garden, which my brother and I peeked into once, shrieking in unison at the sight of red worms writhing amongst the smelly turds.

Sammy refused to eat the lettuce that my mother provided. However, I noticed that when it was grazing on the lawn, it was particularly partial to a weed with a straight-veined leaf. I collected them wherever I could find them, they were satisfying to pull as their veins were elastic.

I've called them rabbit leaves ever since, unfortunately I don't find them so often in my own garden. I had to search around to find this small specimen. Recently while researching weeds, I discovered that its name is plantago, a European & Asian native, which has migrated around the world with European explorers, giving it the nick-name white man's footprint.

This common weed was valued in times past for its healing properties, yet I've neglected it since we lost the pet rabbit decades ago. I'm going to wait for this plant to seed, then propogate it with the same care as my other garden plants. I might be grateful for it again some day in the future.

I'm not medically trained so can't give advice on whether plantago is edible or has medicinal value.
I found these articles on the web, in case you would like to carry out your own research :
(1) The rabbit leaves that I picked looked like this :
http://caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/thome/band4/tafel_072.html
http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2008/10/plantago_major.php
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aVUXwLGdgQ
(2) Plantago is mentioned in "The Edible Lawn" from the Plants for a Future web-site :
http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=72
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Plantago+major
(3) It's reported that amongst people from ancient cultures, plantago is recognised as have healing properties, including being chewed into a poultice to treat bee stings :
http://doctorschar.com/archives/greater-plantain-plantago-major/
http://hollirichey.com/2010/09/01/plantain-a-valuable-medicinal-edible-plant/
(4) The seed husks of the plantago family (especially the psyllium and ovata sub-species) are sources of soluble dietary fibre : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psyllium_seed_husks

 
I'll link this post up to Fertilizer Friday which is hosted by Glenda@tootsietime.

©Copyright 2011 b-a-g. All rights reserved.
Content created by b-a-g for  http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2011/06/plantago-26-jun-2011.html

It would be interesting to read about your Experiments with Plants. (I use the word "Experiments" in its loosest possible sense!)      Please add a link if you have a post that you would like to share :

18 comments:

Tootsie said...

thank you so much for linking in to my little party!!! I think it's a wonderful blog and your post was very pleasant to read...it is too bad you are so far away...there are plenty of those weeds here! lol

Tootsie said...

I forgot to add I am happy to say I am your newest follower!

b-a-g said...

Welcome & Thanks Tootsie - I thought it would be appropriate to join Fertilizer Friday on this occasion. Hopefully I can Flaunt my Flowers soon.

Donna said...

We call these plantains here and you can come visit them in my garden...I will definitely look to link in with my plant experiments...about to do some with horsetail soon

Linnie W said...

Bag I just seriously think you should adopt another rabbit right away!

b-a-g said...

Donna - That's right, I was hoping there would be a connection to the banana-like fruit, but there doesn't seem to be. I look forward to reading about your horsetail experiments. I'll post the link widget once a month if people seem interested.

Linnie - Don't worry I'll keep the pampered plantago in a pot on the patio. That'll reduce it's chances of spreading like wildfire, mind you weeds seem to be attracted to my patio ...

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

You might be interested in Phil's post on A Digital Botanic Garden. It is all about a double form on Plantain and the botanical parts of the plant--very interesting.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

We have them too and they are very weedy. No experiments to post at the moment. Have to think on that one.

b-a-g said...

Carolyn - Thanks for bringing my attention to Phil's post :
http://digitalbotanicgarden.blogspot.com/2011/06/plantago-major-rosularis-plantaginaceae.html

This plantago mutant is really beautiful, like a green rose.

Donna - When I wrote this post I found it difficult to find one to photograph. Then I mowed my lawn and found loads of them !

Masha said...

What a nice post.. I used to keep two pet rabbits once, but I think mine ate mostly clover, and sometimes carrot leaves :). Now that you found the plant they like, are you going to get a rabbit too?

b-a-g said...

Masha - Unfortunately I can't commit to keeping a pet at the moment. A rabbit would be my first choice though.

Orchid de dangau said...

Hi, thanks for sharing the info. Like the nick name you gave to this plant. Interesting post ans still searching the advantage and benefit of this plant to us. I learn something new after read your post. thanks so much.

Autumn Belle said...

It is wonderful how a plant in the garden brings back such fond memories of yesteryears. These 'weeds' are certainly nature's nutricious food for our animal friends.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

What a great story - hope Sammy appreciated your efforts with the Plantago (though I prefer rabbit leaves as a name). Maybe he/she is looking down on you from a rabbit leaves filled heaven willing your propagation experiments to be successful for his/her offspring...

b-a-g said...

Thanks Orchid, Autumn Belle & Janet, I wish I could go back to the days when my biggest problem was finding food for my fussy rabbit ..

Alistair said...

b-a-g, your fondness of your rabbit reminded me of how our daughters were with tom puss our first cat. Plantago! you have a true knack of making any subject interesting.

PatioPatch said...

Hi b-a-g, Funnily enough dug a load of these out of a friend's scrawny lawn yesterday. Psyllium is one of the best natural products for irritable bowel syndromes. Sammy probably knew this hence the firmness of the spherical droppings.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Alistair - No-one in the family was prepared to figure out the rabbit's gender, so we called it Sammy to cover all possibilites.

Laura - I use it myself but I'm cautious recommending it to people because there is a chance that it can get stuck in your throat or below if you don't take it properly with the correct amount of water. Some people are allergic to the dust of the ground husks.

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