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Heart-leaved Plantain (Plantago cordata)

Life history

Species overview

Heart-leaved Plantain (Plantago cordata), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found on cold, calcareous streambanks shaded by mesic hardwood forests. Blooming occurs early May through late June; fruiting occurs early June through early July. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through early July.

Synonyms: Plantago canadensis, Plantago kentukensis


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Leaves with broadly rounded or cordate base, lateral nerves tending to arise from the midnerve within the blade of the leaf.
  • Flower characteristics: Spikes to 3 dm, interrupted, the axis exposed; sepals about equal with the bracts, broadly round-ovate, nearly flat, obtuse or rounded at the tip.
  • Fruit characteristics: Ovoid, 5 to 10 mm, splits at or just below the middle; seeds 2 to 4, smooth, 3 to 4 mm.
  • Leaf characteristics: Principal leaves cordate-ovate, mostly 12 to 25 cm long by 8 to 20 cm wide, main lateral veins not parallel to the margins, and tend to arise from the proximal part of the midvein within the blade; scapes to 3 dm, stout and hollow.


  • Blooming phenology: early May through late June
  • Fruiting phenology: early June through early July
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late May through early July


  • Growth form: Aquatic forb-emergent
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccharum, Tilia americana, Fraxinus americana, Quercus rubra.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Heart-leaved Plantain (Plantago cordata). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Plantago cordata in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on cold, calcareous streambanks shaded by mesic hardwood forests.
  • Soils: Wet, calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Heart-leaved Plantain. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Southern Mesic Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Heart-leaved Plantain. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.
  • Avoid rapid and dramatic reductions in canopy cover or basal area in wet areas to reduce risk of swamping.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.


Heart-leaved Plantain Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Heart-leaved Plantain Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Heart-leaved Plantain Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Heart-leaved Plantain Photo.

Plantago cordata. Milwaukee County.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Heart-leaved Plantain Photo.

Plantago cordata. Photo from Endangered Resources files.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition