Pale Indian plantain is a herbaceous perennial with a large central stalk, silvery-coated, irregularly-shaped leaves, and a terminal, flat-topped inflorescence of white flowers surrounded by stiff green bracts. The late to midsummer flowers work for naturalizing, in the back of the border, and for cottage gardens.
Native geographic location and habitat:
Found throughout North America in dry open woods, rocky woodlands, thickets, slopes, and along streams. C-Value: 8.
Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:
Attracts butterflies and other pollinators.
It has alternate, low mounds of fan-shaped to triangular (deltate) leaves, similar to sycamore leaves, up to 12 inches wide. They are thick and leathery with a medium green upper surface and a lower surface with a grayish white bloom giving it a light green color. Margins have shallowly pointed lobes. Stems are reddish, glaucous, and smooth, with smaller palmately lobed leaves emerging further up the stem.
A thick, central stalk holds a flat-topped cluster (corymb) of tiny white tubular flowers which bloom mid-summer to early fall. Each disk flower has a cream-colored corolla with light green bracts. An insect (wasp, flies and bees) must cross pollinate flowers for plants to produce viable seeds.
Fruit is an achene with tufts of white hairs.
Prairie Indian plantain (Arnoglossum plantagineum):
A 3 to 4 foot high prairie wildflower with thick elliptical leaves and distinct parallel veins. A stout central stem has conspicuous red veins. Flowers are flat-topped clusters of small white flowers in early May through June.
Pale Indian plantain will grow in sun to part shade in well-drained soil and is tolerant of moist soil. It can be aggressive once established, due to prolific seed production.