Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Narrow Leaf Plantain

my life in Appalachia plantain

I’ve been noticing a clump of weeds just out the backdoor. The green bunch is growing right in the portion of gravel that leads you to the back steps. 

Even though it’s in the way, for some reason I’ve kept ignoring it choosing to walk awkwardly around it instead of pulling it up. 

I was beginning to think I had another fairy tale on my hands. Every time I passed that way I felt the small plant nudging open the file cabinet in my brain, but I could never get the drawer it was in open until today. 

As I side-stepped the plant on my way down to the garden I realized what it was trying to tell me.

The skinny spiky top heavy stems were trying to remind me of long recesses at Martins Creek Elementary School and of a group of sweet girls who played together, argued together, and made bracelets, necklaces, and crowns from narrow leaf plantain stems. 

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    F. Raymer
    June 4, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Enjoyed this article! Like many children who loved being outdoors (Ahhh. For the good ol’ days…), we had many seed shooting battles with plantain — tomboys aren’t much into the aforementioned “jewelry making”! 🙂 — while never knowing it is actually both edible & medicinal. Native Americans referred to it as White Man’s Footprint because European settlers took it with them to plant everywhere they went. Here’s an article describing some very interesting information about two main types of plantain, as well as a few other edible “weeds”: http://www.livescience.com/15322-healthiest-backyard-weeds.html . Happy gathering!

  • Reply
    quinn
    June 3, 2017 at 8:26 am

    I’m very curious about this, because I have loads of common plantain here, but nothing will eat it – which is unfortunate considering a major expense for me is having to buy hay year-round. A few years ago someone in England mentioned plantain as a good plant for grazing/browsing livestock which made my head spin (more than usual), and that was how I found out there is more than one variety of plantain. Is yours the good-eating kind? Maybe I could scatter some seed and see if if would compete with the variety I have!
    p.s. the rain stopped long enough for me to plant two rows of pole beans yesterday – maybe I’ll have some vegetables this year after all? I was getting nervous! The space between the rows is already knee-deep in not-vegetables….including plantain!

  • Reply
    June Jolley
    June 2, 2017 at 5:53 am

    Yes, please give us the fairy tale again!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    June 1, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    We made what we called grasshopper chairs with them when we were young. Click here to see how to do it.
    http://janetsmart.blogspot.com/search?q=grasshopper+chairs

  • Reply
    Charline
    June 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    I never knew the name of this ‘pixie-top’ weed! And I sure never knew you could shoot the heads.

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    June 1, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Tipper, I think if you will Google for information about this plant, you will find it has medicinal properties . I have some “brewing” in olive oil now to use on my skin. It’s also interesting to know how to identify the plant: the veins in the leaves run parallel with the center vein.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    June 1, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Yes, fairy tale again.
    We called them rat tails. We shot them just like described.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    June 1, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Yes, fairy tale again.
    We called them rat tails. We shot them just like described.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    June 1, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Yes, fairy tale again.
    We called them rat tails. We shot them just like described.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    June 1, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Yes, fairy tale again.
    We called them rat tails. We shot them just like described.

  • Reply
    SuzyJ
    June 1, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Plantains are apart of the fleabane family. If you have pets they are good to keep away fleas! I have plants throughout my yard, I’ve take to spreading their seeds as I have a dog and a cat. Can’t hurt to try. My yard is one of those, if it’s green it stays kinda yards 🙂

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 1, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Tipper,
    That narrow leafed plantain looks fun. After school, me and Harold use to take those wooden hampers and pick the bigger leaf plantain for our hogs. They loved that stuff!
    I didn’t get an e-mail of the Blind Pig today, so I looked under yesterday’s post in Recent Posts and there it was. …Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 1, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Tipper–I’ve always heard it called English plantain but have no idea. Maybe it’s an unwanted import like English sparrows. While it evidently has provided plenty of youthful play, it’s a nuisance in the yard, because you hardly get the grass cut and looking good that the plant’s seed stems are jutting back up.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 1, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Well I never!
    Shot at someone with a plantain blossom that is. But we had spoke guns. Ever shot a spoke gun?

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    June 1, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Yes, I’d like to hear it again. I never could get the hang of shooting the heads off.

  • Reply
    Maxine
    June 1, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Tell your story to us again, please! You might also tell folks of plantain’s medicinal uses. Keep the mountain lore alive for us, as you do sooooo well!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 1, 2017 at 9:50 am

    We used to use clover blooms to make chains for bracelets, etc. I wish today’s kids were outside playing more than most are. I guess their world is more dangerous than ours was out in the country and I understand why parents can’t let them roam in a lot of places, but we had so much simple and imaginative fun.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 1, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Tipper,
    Yes, I would like to read your post again about Plantain from 2012!
    I am catching up today…Our power went off on Saturday. Five trees down on four mile which eventually runs to our driveway…Since the power line poles were standing, the utility service “jack-legged the power line” (which was broken) to get all our small area electric service. The cable and phone lines were left still under the trees…Cable folks came yesterday and managed to do the same thing, leaving the trees…Chipper and tree cutting crews here are overwhelmed and at a minimum. The story goes that this was the worst multiple outages from tree fall, etc. since the ice storm several years ago. Many are still without power today and may be off into the weekend. We were told early on to make plans to move food if possible…We moved what we could to sons freezer. Yesterday we took a large upright freezer and side by side freezer of left food to the dump! I sure hated to see all of my strawberries, mangos on sale chopped in freezer, on sale pork loin go to the dump…That very day we had purchased a new gallon of milk. We filled a cooler with cheese, etc. mayo etc. for sandwiches. It could have been worse…no tornados but extremely high straight line winds all over the county!
    I remember making what we called when I was a girl…grasshopper nests/houses out of the long stems…Fold seven or eight stems over your two center fingers, so the top is flat, breaking the stems over and down…gather group under your fingers and tie with a couple of stems…slide off fingers or weave while on fingers, stems over and under all the way across and down the other side, when finished weave end into boxy type opening to hold in place…slide off fingers…this was guaranteed to catch a grasshopper or other critter…We also had fights by folding over the stem, bringing the seed tip in and yanking it sending the tip in your friend direction with a pop!
    Thanks Tipper,
    Our fairy houses were under toad stools and mushrooms with the root beer/ginger bottles…

  • Reply
    Patsy
    June 1, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I think so many weeds are beautiful! The one at your back your back door reminded you of good childhood memories and you reminded me that we used to bend the stems and shoot the tops at each other. The next time I see one I’m going to try it again!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 1, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Somewhere in my checkered past I read that Indians called plantain ‘white man’s foot’ because it appeared when they did. I have both broad-leaved and narrow-leaved and the narrow seems especially lush this year with all the rain.
    As kids we picked the flower stem, folded it over itself and used it to snap the head off and ‘shoot’ it at one another.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 1, 2017 at 8:10 am

    I can’t tell you how many times I have played with those plants. They not only make bracelets and crowns for young girls but they make a pretty cool projectile launcher for boys. You have to wrap the stem around it’s self and pull backwards pretty fast and the head will pop off and shoot several feet if done correctly. I’ll still pluck one up and shoot it sometimes and love to show kids how to do it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 1, 2017 at 6:30 am

    The Pressley Girls are going to be busy this Saturday with two performances!

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