Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Great Indian Plantain (Cacalia muhlenbergii )

The silhouette of this plant attracted my attention from a moving car several weeks ago. The photos don't really capture the dramatic form that caught my eye speeding by at 50 mph. I stopped last Sunday to get a closer look.

Though I've never encountered Indian plantain before, I thought I'd seen similar plants in some of the nursery catalogues I use, so I went on a search, only to discover there are several different Indian plantains. This one has jagged, angular foliage held at a uniform angle (maybe 60 degrees) from the horizontal. Combined with the rigid stems of the plant, they make for a striking effect against a uniform background. I believe this is Cacalia mulengergii, Great Indian plantain, but correct me, please, if I'm wrong.

The umbelliferous flower heads are decorative, but the foliage and overall figure of the plant are what make this plant unique. Now I'm on a search to find it for my garden.

This close-up gives a better view of the foliage as well as the reddish stems.

This specimen is growing on private land, about 25 feet from the roadside, in the Rosemont Valley near our house in western New Jersey.


  1. mobot site says it 'freely self seeds'. I think that means if you stop back there when the seed is ripe, you should be able to get it going at your place pretty easily.

    Looks like the kind of plant I'd grow, except it seems to prefer well-drained soil, which is at a premium here.

  2. Well drained soil is hard to find at my place too but I'll give it a try. After looking at the mobot site I'm not sure I've identified the species correctly. The Sanguisorba tenuifolia seed you sent me still hasn't germinated, but I've decided to give it until next spring before I give up hope.

  3. well worth the read.I found it very informative as I have been researching a lot lately on practical matters such as you talk about...

  4. While the flowerheads are not particularly showy, the thick rubbery leaves provide this plant with a presence that is quite interesting and different. This is the only member of the genus Arnoglossum with plantain shaped lower leaves.

  5. This plant can withstand standing water, but not severe drought. The soil should be rich in organic material, and either a high or low pH is tolerated. Foliar disease doesn't appear to be troublesome.



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