Species At Risk

Heart-leaved Plantain

(Plantago cordata)


Heart-leaved Plantain
Heart-leaved Plantain occurrences map


Heart-leaved Plantain is a perennial herb that forms a rosette of large, egg-shaped to heart-shaped leaves that are 10 to 25 centimetres long. The distinctive leaves are evident only in the summer, while smaller, narrower leaves are produced in the cooler seasons.

Small purplish-green flowers grow on a narrow spike that reaches up to 30 centimetres high. The fruit capsule contains two to four dark brown seeds, each about three to four millimetres long.


Heart-leaved Plantain occurs across eastern North America, ranging from eastern Iowa to western New York, south to northern Florida. However, its distribution is very patchy across this range.

In Canada, Heart-leaved Plantain grows in just two locations in southwestern Ontario.


A semi-aquatic plant, Heart-leaved Plantain is found in relatively undisturbed wet woods, often along the rocky or gravelly limestone beds of shallow, slow-moving clear streams. Moisture is generally always present above or just below the soil surface. The most common trees in Ontario woodlots associated with this plant are Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Blue-beech (Carpinus caroliniana), Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata), White Ash (Fraxinus americana), Black Ash (F. pennsylvanica) and Basswood (Tilia americana).


The primary threat to Heart-leaved Plantain is habitat loss and degradation, with many of the historic sites lost to agricultural uses. The species is very sensitive to water quality and quantity impacts that may result from upstream agriculture or development.


Heart-leaved Plantain is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Heart-leaved Plantain

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as Heart-leaved Plantain. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find Heart-leaved Plantain on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • The Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program is available to farmers registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. Find more information at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.

Did you know?

Heart-leaved Plantain is capable of self-pollinating but generally the seeds are wind-pollinated.

Did you know?

The seeds of this plant are very buoyant and are covered by a mucous that allows them to stick to objects floating in the water, so they are easily dispersed.

Did you know?

Aboriginal peoples used Heart-leaved Plantain leaves as a poultice to dress wounds and to help heal burns.

Did you know?

A genetic study with samples from six American states and Ontario found that there is very little genetic variation in the species.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.