Llantén: Characteristics, Types, Origin

He plantain ( Plantago major ) Is a vivacious herb belonging to the plant family ( Plantaginaceae , As it is formally known in Latin). It is a plant that has leaves with oval forms, whole or somewhat sinuous at the edges, with the very long petiole, all radical and arranged in a rosette.

From the center of the plantain comes a scape of 20-40 centimeters in height, which ends in a long and tight floral spike. The breeding of this herb is done on somewhat humid roads and in the meadows with abundant fertilizer. It has been used in medicine as an astringent (to heal tissues in the body).


Plantain has a significant biodiversity, which is why it receives different denominations such as Alisma , For the water plantain and the lesser plantain ( Plantago lanceolata ). The latter has lanceolate (ie, lance-shaped) leaves, erect, and with an inflorescence that is generally short.

At the geographical and linguistic level the plantain is known in many ways according to the regions in which it is present. This plant has Yantén , Planten Y Lantern , among many others; In English, meanwhile, there are terms such as Cart-track plant Y White-man's-foot .

In Native American languages, for its part, there are countless words for the Plantain that vary according to the Amerindian ethnicity, as Yures xukuri Y Xiw kin .

The reason for which there are so many biological and linguistic variants of the plantain is basically due to its intense diffusion that took place from the Age of the Discoveries. The commercial expansion of the European powers in America and other latitudes made this plant known in the most distant corners.

Nowadays the llantén enjoys much popularity in countries like Mexico, as much in the rural environments as in the urban surroundings.

In the same way, this plant adapted to different habitats that are often those of intermediate environments, temperate, in which the humidity predominates. The propagation by the wind has made that the plantain has been spread with success.

Its unique morphological characteristics make it easy to identify by botanists and passionate herbalists, who take advantage of their chemical properties in order to treat various health conditions and disorders in people.

Taxonomic classification of plantain

The plantain is a plant angiosperma for the simple fact of having flower and seeds. Its classification in the taxonomy applied to the branch of botany the following:

  • Kingdom: Plantae .
  • Subreino: Tracheobionta (Refers to vascular plants, which have vessels in their internal structure).
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Ie, seeded plants).
  • Division: Magnoliophyta (Belonging to plants with flower, which undoubtedly groups the plantain within the angiosperms).
  • Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons, with two cotyledons).
  • Subclass: Asteridae .
  • Order: Plantaginales.

Because of its wide biological variety, the plantain is called in various ways depending on the geographic region and the type of plant that is on hand.

The common plantain or plantain major ( Plantago major ) Is the name most used in the Castilian language because it is the most widespread variety in the Old World, especially in Spain. The lesser plantain ( Plantago lanceolata ), For its part, is much less and is distinguished by its typical blade with a spear.

The Spanish language registers many nouns with which this angiosperm plant is designated. In several terminological sources, the use of words such as Lantern Y Lanté , apart from Antén , Landen , Lante , Planten , Anten , Diantén , Lanter , Lanty , I will stand Y Yantén .

To these divergent spellings of the plantain are joined other more curious denominations still, as Donkey ears , Paletarea , I plant , antenna , Cancer , Duck chili , Cow tongue , lentil Y mucilage .

Of all the Spanish denominations that are mentioned, the only one that responds directly to the Latin etymology is the one of Plantago This word forms part of the scientific nomenclature that is used to categorize the plantain in the vast kingdom of plants.

This word, by the way, is not seen in any way employed in English, a language that rather uses terms like Broadleaf plantain , Cart-track plant , Common plantain , Greater plantain Y White-man's-foot To designate the plantain.

Likewise, the languages ​​of Native Americans have not been exempt from these idiomatic disparities. Some authors point out that in the territory of present-day Mexico the Aborigines, after knowing that plant from the hands of the Europeans, called - and still call - the plantain Uitsuacua sipiati Y Yures xukuri in Michoacan, I love you In Chiapas, Snoktail In Puebla and Xiw kin In the Yucatan peninsula.

These terms commonly come from the Nahuatl and other Amerindian languages ​​that are related to it.

Origin of the plantain

The plantain is a plant of European origin that spread throughout the rest of the world throughout the colonization. This plant has several names in many languages; Even the same language has different ways of designating it.

Given its medicinal uses, the plantain soon spread not only throughout the Old Continent but also throughout the confines of the New World.

Therefore, it can be said that the plantain is an exotic plant in America, that is, that came from abroad brought from Europe.

It is known that this plant is so widely distributed that it is possible to see it in any market or herbal store; And in Mexico it is most often seen in places like Veracruz, Sinaloa, Baja California, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Puebla, Chiapas, Colima, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and others.

This is irrefutable proof of an important fact, and is that plantain is present not only in many countries, but also in both rural and urban environments.

This plant can be obtained everywhere, regardless of whether it is in the countryside or in the city. In fact, plantain often grows in the courtyards of the houses, which is why its quantity is abundant and its supply is safe for domestic herbalist purposes.

Description and identification

To identify the plantain, exact descriptions of the plant are followed, which are general and often take into account the most common variety, which is Plantago major .

The various specialists agree that the plantain is a plant whose habit and way of life correspond to those of an erect herb. This type of grass is one that having a height of between 10 and 65 centimeters, is maintained in a firm and erect position.

In addition, the plantain is a thick stem plant and compact with alternating leaves that form a kind of rosette. These leaves have a green petiole in the shape of a channel, hence it is said that it is corrugated .

The leaves, in fact, have purple shades at their base, are thick and have a length ranging from 4 to 20 centimeters. The base of the plant up to the stem can have hairs and a series of vessels - the"veins"-, which from this are parallel and divergent with each other.

In the plantain the inflorescences can go from 1 to 30, according to the plant, and its length can go from 6 to 40 centimeters. As for its flowers, these can be up to 20 centimeters long, with sepals without hairs or with fine hairs and spikes with cylindrical-linear shapes.

The fruit of the plantain, for its part, is nothing other than a capsule with the appearance of ellipse or balloon that measures up to 5 millimeters in length. Its color is dark brown and inside there are up to 30 seeds.

Plantain seedlings have two cotyledons that have an ellipse shape. There are no hairs here Hypocotyl (The part of the young plant that leaves the seed, in the bottom of the cotyledon). Alternate sheets are Corroded , That is to say, they are like rosettes, as if they had flower form.

In this plant, the roots are fibrous and have a main root that is degenerate, and whose external appearance or appearance, is best seen in the smaller roots, Roots .


As has been said before, one of the names of the plantain is, in English, White-man's-foot . This is so because the American Indians saw the rapid migration of this plant brought by the"white man." The footprint of the plantain felt as the British colonizer was treading on his land.

Not surprisingly, this circumstance, in general terms, reveals the type of environment in which the plantain develops and also how it expands in the biosphere.

In Europe, plantain is best achieved in cracks of passable roads, such as roads, footpaths, sidewalks and pavements where both vehicles and humans circulate.

On the other hand, in America it is more common to see that this plant grows in crops like alfalfa and in humid environments; In Mexico, in fact, the plantain does not stand the footsteps.

In relation to bioclimatic areas, particularly those in Mexico, the llantén is located, for example, in Puebla, where pine and oak forests abound; That without the cloud and mountain ecosystems (that is, the Mesophile forests ).

The plantain, by the way, can be seen at various altitudes ranging from 350 to 2,050 meters above sea level, especially if it is in temperate zones (weather neither too cold nor too hot).

Ecology and biology

Both the dispersion and the germination and propagation of the plantain are produced by roots and seeds. The germination process can be intermittent and go between the months of April until September.

The life cycle of this plant is much more permanent. It is said to be of perennial or annual character. Its flowering can take place between spring and late summer. There may be flowers and fruits throughout the year in places like Veracruz or El Bajío.

Also, the plantain has a fruit production that can last until the middle of the autumn if it begins at the beginning of the summer.

Pollination of this angiosperm plant can occur through the wind (or as it is called in terms of botany, pollination Anemophiliac ); And not so much through the intervention of animals such as insects, birds and mammals.

Impact and control

The appearance of plantain in various crops may be harmful to them. It can damage their growth and therefore the development of agriculture.

This plant can arise in areas where crops such as corn, chile, alfalfa, grains, vegetables in general and sugar cane have been planted. In this sense the plantain acts properly as a bad herb.

The use of herbicides can be very useful to eradicate the birth of plantain in undesired spaces in which the integrity of the crops can be compromised.

Dicamba is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the removal of this plant when it becomes a plant parasite. They also serve others of the same nature as the 2,4-DB or MCPA.

Medicinal properties

It is possible to mention that the plantain is a plant that does not stand out neither for its origin, nor for its adaptability to the environment, but for its medicinal properties. Plantain, therefore, is often used as an astringent; That is, it is used as a healing tissue.

For its antiseptic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, plantain is used to treat ulcers. It is also used to treat inflammations of the eyes and spots on the skin.


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  2. Bailey, Jill (1999). The Penguin dictionary of plant sciences. London: Penguin Books.
  3. Herbarium of the Public University of Navarra (2015a). Flora Arvense of Navarra; Family Plantaginaceae [dicotyledons]. Navarra, Spain: University of Navarra. Recovered from unavarra.es.
  4. (2015b). Flora Arvense of Navarra; Plantago major L.: llantén mayor. Navarra, Spain: University of Navarra. Recovered from unavarra.es.
  5. Hypertexts of the Area of ​​Biology (2013). Guide of Consultations Botany II; Plantaginaceae. Corrientes, Argentina: National University of the Northeast, Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences and Surveying. Recovered from biology.edu.ar.
  6. Math Science Nucleus (No year). Life Cycle: Diversity in a Balance, Dictionary. California, United States: Childen's Natural History Museum. Retrieved from msnucleus.org.
  7. Mondragón Pichardo, Juana (2004). Plantaginaceae; Plantago major , Greater plantain. Mexico D.F., Mexico: Conabio. Retrieved from conabio.gob.mx.
  8. S. National Plant Germplasm System (2017). Family: Plantaginaceae Juss., Nom. Cons. Washington D.C., United States: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from npgsweb.ars-grin.gov.

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