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Plantago patagonica

Linnaeus named the Plantago genus in 1753 and Nikolaus Jacquin (famed professor of botany and chemistry and Director of the Botanical Garden at the University of Vienna) named Plantago patagonica in Icones Plantarum Rariorum in 1786 from a specimen collected in Patagonia. Dr. Alexey Shipunov, Plantago expert and author of the treatment of that genus in the Flora of North America, indicated to me,

"It is likely that Jacquin... described Plantago patagonica from his extensive collections made in Central and South America in 1754-1759. His herbarium should be in Vienna (https://www.jacq.org) but I did not find the type scanned, maybe it was not digitized yet, but it is also possible that this sample was lost during WW2 (about 15% of this herbarium was destroyed)."

The painting above is from Icones Plantarum Rariorum.

"Planta", Latin for the "sole of the foot", refers to the leaf shape of some Plantains. 

Plantago patagonica is common not only in the Patagonia region of Argentina where it was discovered, but also in the Western United States (see the map below).

In the United States this species was once erroneously named, "Plantago purshii" with the common name of "Pursh's Plantain". That common name persists in some areas of the eastern U.S. even though everyone now accepts P. patagonica as the scientific name. The widely accepted English common name is "Woolly Plantain". (Notice from the map below that P. patagonica is not native to the central and eastern U.S.; it is adventive there in just a few counties.)

In the United States, Plantago patagonica has been named Plantago purshii, Plantago Lagopus, and Plantago gnaphaloides. Briefly, here is the convoluted story of those erroneous scientific names for Plantago patagonica:

In 1814 Frederick Pursh described and named "Plantago Lagopus", a Plantago species which had been collected by Thomas Nuttall near the Missouri River. Pursh's use of the unusual specific epithet "Lagopus" indicates that he thought the collection by Nuttall was the same plant Linnaeus had described and named Plantago Lagopus* from European and African collections in 1753.

Thomas Nuttall was furious with Pursh for publishing this Plantago species (and a number of other Nuttall collections) without Nuttall's permission. When Nuttall published his Genera of North American Plants in 1818 he corrected Pursh's erroneous "Plantago Lagopus" name and he renamed the species, "Plantago gnaphaloides", with this comment showing that he knew his collection from the Missouri River area was not the same as the species Linnaeus had named and described: "P. Lagopus, Pursh. A name already applied to a very distinct species".

Also in 1818, Roemer and Schultes realized that Pursh was in error and that Nuttall's species was not the same species that Linnaeus had described. They renamed the species that Nuttall had collected, "Plantago purshii".

Neither Pursh nor Nuttall nor Roemer and Schultes realized that the species Nuttall had collected was the same as one which had been collected in South America. That species had been described and named "Plantago patagonica" in 1786 by Jacquin.

*Linnaeus used the word "Lagopus", which means "Hare's foot", because of the shape of the inflorescence.

Plantago patagonica
 
Plantago patagonica. Synonyms: Plantago Lagopus, Plantago purshii, Plantago gnaphaloides. (Woolly Plantain) (Spanish common name: "Peludilla")
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, canyons. Spring to early summer.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 13, 2005.

This is a very common, very small, very cute plant.  Leaves are quite hairy and flowers are white, quite small, and densely packed together.   Woolly Plantain's presence is often indicative of overgrazed and barren soils.

 

Plantago patagonica

 
Plantago patagonica. Synonyms: Plantago Lagopus, Plantago purshii, Plantago gnaphaloides. (Woolly Plantain) (Spanish common name: "Peludilla")
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, canyons. Spring to early summer.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 13, 2005 and Mesa Verde National Park, May 29, 2013.

Delicate and lovely flowers are open on the bottom third of the flowering stem in the top photograph at left and on most of the of the flowering stem in the bottom photograph.

 
Plantago patagonica. Synonyms: Plantago Lagopus, Plantago purshii, Plantago gnaphaloides. (Woolly Plantain) (Spanish common name: "Peludilla")
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, canyons. Spring to early summer.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 13, 2005.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Plantago patagonica