WILTON — Every year people spend lots of time removing the weeds they find in their yard to create a beautiful lawn. Many of these plants that we call weeds have benefits for us beyond just the aesthetics of a front yard. “Weed” is a word we use for a plant that is unwelcome and unwanted and perhaps grows a bit out of control. But if we can learn a little more about why they are so successful at growing and how they might benefit us, we can perhaps change our perspectives and respect these beautiful plants a little more.
One of these pesky “weeds” is called plantain. Although it shares a name with a popular fruit, it is a different plant. Plantain is a plant that was introduced to New England by the original European settlers. It earned its nickname, “white man’s footprint,” because the plant seemed to grow wherever the settlers went. Plantain, like many weeds, survives well in areas with a lot of foot traffic, which is why we see them a lot in our lawns. Our delicate blades of grass ironically can’t handle being trampled on all the time even though that is what we use a lawn for. When blades of grass die from being stepped on, plantain moves in to fill the gaps.