Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major are native to Europe and Asia, but introduced and thriving almost worldwide. Plantago rugelii is native to eastern North America, and very common here. You can find these species growing along roadsides and sidewalks, in parks, and maybe even in your backyard!
If you would like to get involved in our research, here are some “community science” projects you can contribute to. Note that the project titles are links to external sites.
If you live in a state bordering the Mississippi River (Minnesota, Wisconsin, lllinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana), any observations (geo-tagged photos) of Plantago that you upload to iNaturalist will be added to this collection project. These observations will help us plan future survey and sampling destinations.
If you live somewhere outside of the states listed above (anywhere in the world!), we hope you will still upload your Plantago observations to iNaturalist. We might expand our survey and sampling area in the future, and we will view your observations then.
If you see a Plantago plant infected with powdery mildew, anywhere in the world, please take a photo and upload it to iNaturalist (along with the date and location details of your observation).
Only two species of powdery mildew are known to infect plants in the genus Plantago, and these two species are Podosphaera plantaginis and Golovinomyces sordidus (Braun & Cook 2012). Both mildew species are capable of infecting all three of our focal Plantago species (P. lanceolata, P. major, and P. rugelii), and identifying the mildew to species requires microscopic examination of fungal structures or molecular analysis of fungal DNA. To make matters more confusing, Golovinomyces sordidus was formerly known as Erysiphe sordida (fungal species names are frequently re-evaluated and changed by taxonomists).
If you find powdery mildew on Plantago, please upload your observation and tag it as any one of these three taxa: Plantain Mildew, Podosphaera plantaginis, or Golovinomyces sordidus. Any observations of those three taxa will be automatically added to this collection project. You can choose from among those three taxa designations ~randomly~, unless you have microscopic or molecular data to justify the designation (in which case, please mention that in a comment on the observation).
For our project, we just want to see where *any* powdery mildew is occurring on Plantago species. Don’t worry about guessing the wrong powdery mildew species, as we will not be trusting any of the species-level identifications of powdery mildew uploaded to iNaturalist (unless the contributor adds a comment with convincing rationale for the species designation).
PhD student Quinn Fox is studying Plantago in parks along an urbanization gradient in the St. Louis Region (> 20 parks total, in urban, suburban, and rural habitats). If you’d like to learn more about this project, or wish to contribute to the research, let us know.
Please contact Rachel Penczykowski for more information on any of these projects.