Not Just Another Lowly Plant

Some plants around us aren’t featured these days in greenhouses. Wind and birds may propagate them in vacant lots. We may consider them as weeds. In their understory way, they may contribute their part in ecology and sometimes have attributes that become beneficial.

Amur maple may be pruned as a shrub or grow naturally as a small tree in this region. It grows and maintains itself while most maples outshine it in autumn color and utility as a shade tree. If given adequate sunlight, water, and space to attain its natural form, the amur may become the Japanese maple of the Northern Plains in fall. This understory of the grand yellow cottonwood is found at Lewis & Clark Recreation Area.

Another plant commonly found in the disturbed ground in the region and maybe in lawns where a tree shades more grass over time is Plantago major. Plantago is an established weed introduced from Europe more than a century ago. Its cousin, Plantago ovata Forssk, may appear to be just another weed.

The herb Plantago ovata grows in the southwestern United States. Its husks are referred to as Psyllium in the fiber supplements such as Metamucil that some people take for digestive health, according to Its seedcoats contain mucilage that absorbs water tenfold. 

The annual dicot grows about three feet tall and has a taproot that helps it flourish in dry climates. Many flower shoots produce lots of seeds in capsules. This photo from the Nevada Native Plant Society and more information about Plantago ovata may be found at Amazing, some of the lowly plants around us.

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