What is Pale Indian Plantain and why should I plant it?

Arniglossum atriplicifolium

Think about what you order, what you plant and what you recommend for planting? We are sure you have your favorites. In fact, we know you have your favorites – we can tell by the orders. When is the last time you tried out an unfamiliar plant? Ordered some to plant around and see how they did, learned about them so you can recommend them, or not, to customers and clients?

Some of you may know Pale Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium) and for others this may be something new for you.

Native to most of the eastern half of the United States, also known as Pale Wild Caraway, this perennial in the aster family is Listed as an S1 plant in the New Jersey Pinelands and Highlands. That designation means:

Critically Imperiled – Critically imperiled in the nation or state because of extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer occurrences) or because of some factor(s) such as very steep declines making it especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state.

One reason you may consider planting this plant is to promote, preserve, protect genetic diversity of a species that is having trouble thriving in other areas. Learn more about the debate around nursery-propagated species of concern.

Though the flowers are not as showy as their more popular Aster cousins it is the foliage on this plant that really stands out and has something different to offer in the garden. The large (to 8″ long and wide) leaves look waxy and almost plastic, they are bright green above and nearly white underneath, thanks to a waxy bloom that also occurs on the stems. If you use your imagination they can resemble sycamore leaves and the basal leaves form large rosettes nearly 2 foot wide adding an interesting course texture to your display.

If you are looking for height in your design, this plant can offer it – growing up to 9 feet tall, but usually somewhere in the range of 3-9′. In summer through early fall, Pale Indian Plantain sends its central stalk skyward topped with clusters of small pale green to cream colored flowers in a flat-topped panicle. Like our mountain mints, the flowers are not incredibly showy but they do support a number of beneficial insects including wasps, flies and small bees.

While this plant prefers not to dry out, it will tolerate open woodland and rocky conditions and will seed in and naturalize where happy.

So, what are your go-to plants? What are some of the new plants you have recently discovered, that surprised you or taught you something and you have added to your plant palette?


References(and for photos):

Missouri Botanic Garden Plant Finder

Illinois Wildflowers

USDA Plant Database

North Carolina State University Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox

Rickett, H. W., Steere, W. C., & McVaugh, R. (1966). Wild flowers of the United States.

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