12 August 2012

Playing with weeds

You all know what this is, I suppose. Plantago major, the plantain. Also, apparently, called white man's footstep because it is a European plant that moved across America as rapidly as European humans did and is now of course firmly established as a weed in our lawns, road-sides, and other disturbed areas.
I've always sort of like plantain. One summer as a kid I spent days on end collecting seed from all the plantains in our yard, and carefully threshing and cleaning the seed, pretending I was a farmer harvesting grain.
As an adult my odd love of plantain has taken a new form... There are various interesting forms of this plant out there -- variegated, red leaved, etc. I've been collecting them up and breeding them together to produce new forms. Including this:
What do you think? It has been a side project I've never been terribly serious about because, after all, it is a weed, but... that is actually kind of nice. I'm thinking of calling it Plantago 'Purple Perversion' because alliteration makes me giggle, and you would have to be a little perverted to plant a weed like this on purpose.

18 comments:

John Grimshaw said...

Nice! Do you have it fixed as a seed strain? What are the inflorescences like? (I presume you have 'Rosenstolz'?)

Dean089 said...

Does it hold its color? I had a purple-leaved plantain several years ago that really should have been called "purple tinged."

College Gardener said...

Is it as vigorous and "weedy" as the plain form?

Kenneth Moore said...

That was my initial question, too!

But also, I have encouragent. I mean, how many types of mint are out there? And people plant wisteria all the time. People *love* their invasive, weedy plants. I'd much rather see a frilly purple rosette dotting my yard than the expanse of green! (That's assuming I ever get a yard... Would it grow well in low-light indoor conditions?)

Kenneth Moore said...

Encouragement--blame my phone for the typo

mudsmitten said...

i also seem to admire weeds.. like mullein, i can't help it.. the bigger the better.. plantago.. so hosta like, you have to love it.. i hope it works out, would make a great birthday gift for my ever snooty hort friend....lol

Anonymous said...

Really cool and lovely! Does asiatica cross with major? It'd be interesting to see if possible to get white streaking on a purple background......
PS Now that Foxgloves are Plantains, are they still considered weeds?

Joseph Tychonievich said...

John, Yes, it comes true (with a few off individuals) from seed. Just normal inflorescences. I do have 'Rosenstolz' and I'm working on adding that to the mix. Should be fun!

Dean,
The color seems to hold pretty well. It needs full sun for the brightest color, but even in some shade it is pretty red.

College Gardener,
I assume it is just as weedy as the regular form, though I've not had it out in the garden yet to see. The various parent forms certainly seed around -- I've got the variegated one growing in the cracks of my driveway. It would probably interbreed with the plain green ones, though, so the seedlings might not be as colorful.

Yes, the variegated Plantago asiatica does cross with this -- I've got seedlings germinating. We'll see what they look like!

H. Glaber said...

I kinda like the idea of planting strange weeds. I mean, I already have plantains and dandelions and such - why not have pink dandelions and purple plantains and whatever else? The curious looks of passers by alone would be worth it. In fact while you're at it, can you whip up a variegated Physalis and perhaps a blood red Cyperus esculentus?

Well, maybe Cyperus is over the line.

Rachelle said...

Your weed is edible, right? There's an application...

Duane McDowell said...

I saw a variegated Ambrosia species in the neighborhood yesterday. I could send you seed....

Bryan D. said...

Its a very alluring weed (but I am fond of many weeds). I could see Plantago 'Purple Perversion' making a prized potted pet.

I entirely relate to your situation- I've found a boldly variegated Ailanthus altissima growing along a roadside. My instinct tells me to propagate it, and try it as a coppiced shrub, but I doubt many others would share my enthusiasm for such a notoriously weedy tree!

azulverde said...

That looks delicious, that will go well with dandelion leaves in a salad. I've read that plantain has a high content of beta carotene (Vit. A) and calcium and also contains ascorbic acid (Vit. C).

Nick Ternes said...

I grow Plantago lancifolia because it just looks great in my full sun butterfly garden. I can't recall which at the moment, but I know at least one butterfly species uses Plantago species as a host plant, so there's another use.

As for variegated Ailanthus... why not? People seem to enjoy Acer negundo 'Flamingo'.

Mike said...

I would buy a seed packet of this, for what that's worth :).

Anonymous said...

Bryan D. in the off-chance that you see this and have propagated the variegated Ailanthus you found, I would be very interested in obtaining a root sprout for an arboretum that I work closely with. You can reach me via pmcrim@mix.wvu.edu

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River P said...

Joseph I don't know when you posted this or if you still have this lovely Plantain but I would certainly buy seed. Love the colour and form, the ruffled edging is fantastic.

I've always loved plantain. Looks exactly like a little hosta, lush and green and with that lovely venation on the leaf. To me it epitomises the fecundity of Summer, long days spent by fresh water canals, picnics, meadow flowers and nudity, all things nice. Insects especially beetles unfortunately also love it so more often than not by mid season its shot full of holes.

It's a tough one to transplant, like most weeds it goes into immediate shock, but seed would be excellent! I tried a few times without much luck to transplant it but then decided to digs up large intact chunks of earth as this was the only way it would work. Getting seed is tricky too, you have to get it just at the right moment and then you get tons, if not nothing as it falls out very easily when ripe or is green and not ready.

I introduced it to my garden as it make valuable and healthy tortoise feed, being rich in all the right things.

It would be nice if there was a sterile one as their brown inflorescence rather mars a nice planting of these, but I do definitely love that cultivar of yours anyway.