Spring has arrived and that means the brilliant and colorful resurgence of plant life. But not all of that plant life is welcome. In pastures, fields and lawns across the state, you will see the emergence of the unwanted green foliage of buckhorn plantain.
An invader from Europe, buckhorn plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.) has a broad base comprised of many long, wide grassy looking leaves, says Neil Rhodes, Jr., University of Tennessee professor and Extension weed management specialist. When the weed begins to flower, it grows straight stems that can reach nearly two feet in height. On top of those stems, you will find the buckhorn plantain’s (also referred to as ribwort plantain) very recognizable flower head, which is usually less than four inches long.
This weed, while not particularly unattractive, can pose a risk to the health of pastures. “It can increase in density over time and compete with desirable forages,” Rhodes cautions. He also points out just how durable the weed is. “Older plants can become highly drought-tolerant due to its long taproot. The plant can regenerate from the taproot even when cut off at or below the soil surface.”
It is not all bad news, though. The weed is not toxic and is even digestible, so it will not pose a direct threat to livestock. That being said, this is not a plant that you want to let build up in your pastures. “Prevention is an integral part of an overall management plan,” says Rhodes. “Healthy, competitive stands of forage will shade the soil surface and make the establishment of new seedlings more difficult. Carefully scouting pastures and knowing how to recognize young plants will help prevent early introductions from becoming persistent problems.”
Several effective herbicides are available to help combat the buckhorn plantain, but before considering their usage, be sure to thoroughly read the herbicide label and follow all directions and precautions. Rhodes also suggests you examine the Extension resource herbicestewardship.utk.edu for more information.
For more information about buckhorn plantain or other weeds, go online to extension.utk.edu/publications and search “weeds,” or contact your local county UT Extension office. The publication Pasture Weed Fact Sheet: Buckhorn Plantain (W 322) can be viewed directly at extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W322.pdf.
UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issue at the local, state and national levels.
W. Alan Bruhin
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