Beware of imitations

It is a global economy. When you purchase something it is difficult to tell if it is the real Aussie deal or an imported imitation.

Let’s talk Plantains (not the banana-type of plantains). Plants in the Plantago genus are commonly called plantains. They are inconspicuous and are found all over the world. Locally one of the most common native plantains is the Variable Plantain (Plantago varia).

Plantation of Plantago varia

Plantation of Plantago varia

Each spring this plant is first seen as rabbit-ear-type leaves come out of the ground. The flowers are brown cylindrical spikes and even though they do not have the amazing colours of the orchids, lilies and peas we have blogged about recently, in close-up they are a wonder of detail (see picture below). DSCN3871The prominent anthers can be seen on the end of thread-like filaments. Variable plantain colonises undisturbed areas—so they are most common on ungrazed land and along some of the natural roadside reserves. They do not attract birds or frogs but are a food plant for caterpillars.

One of the more common imported species from the same family is Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata). You will probably recognise it by the flower-head pictured below. As kids we used to make missiles of the flower head by rapidly pulling the stalk through a bent stem. This garden weed is a native of Europe and Central Asia and is commonly found in more disturbed sites such as cuttings and road edges. Ribwort also is a favoured food source of butterfly and moth larvae.

Plantago lanceolata

Plantago lanceolata

But if you are after a genuine Australian plant you can’t go past Plantago varia. As Australian as Vegemite.

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