Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Found in all but extreme northeastern North Dakota, Patagonian plantain is sometimes called "buckhorn ". The species also occurs from Illinois to British Columbia and south to South America at elevations up to 7,000 ft.
There are several varieties of Patagonian plantain in North Dakota. It is unknown whether these plants are annuals, biennials, or short-lived perennials. Our plants are usually less than a foot tall and have a taproot less than three inches long. Numerous pale hairs on stems and leaves give the plants a grayish-green color. The very narrow leaves are less than four inches long and mostly arise from the base of the plant. Dozens or hundreds of tiny pale flowers are crowded into spikes about 1/4-inch wide and 2-6 inches long. Each spike in borne on a peduncle that can be shorter or longer than the spike. Fruits are tiny capsules, each with two reddish-tan seeds.
Look for Patagonian plantain from May to August on dry sandy prairie or along roadsides. In North Dakota, more plants are usually seen where livestock grazing pressure is heavy or moderate. Worldwide, the plantains are used as astringent, diuretic, and laxative medicines, and also eaten as greens or in salads, but I found no information on any economic uses for Patagonian plantain.
The plantains are members of the family Plantaginaceae. The name is from the Latin planta, "footprint" for the large, wide leaves of some species in this family. There are about 260 species of the genus Plantago found nearly worldwide. The specific epithet means "of Patagonia" in botanical Latin. Patagonian plantain was first described for science by Nicolaus Joseph Baron von Jacquin (1727-1817), professor of botany and director of the botanic garden, Vienna.