Pale Indian Plantain

Photo of pale Indian plantain flower clusters.
Scientific Name
Arnoglossum atriplicifolium (also Cacalia atriplicifolia)
Asteraceae (daisies)

Perennial plant with a single stem, a silvery coating, widely spaced leaves, and a terminal, spreading inflorescence. Flowerheads in a flat-topped, loose corymb (the center flowers bloom first). White disk florets are surrounded by long, stiff green bracts. Blooms June–October. Leaves are pale green above, silvery white (glaucous) below. They stand out obliquely and are irregularly shaped with pointed lobes, the lower ones wider than long, to 6 inches wide. The leaves become smaller higher up the stem.


Height: usually to 5 feet, but can reach 8 feet.

Where To Find
image of Pale Indian Plantain distribution map


Occurs in low bottomland forests and upland woods, bases and ledges of bluffs, banks of streams and rivers, and pastures, roadsides, and railroads. This plant prefers shade in our area but is also a common prairie plant in Illinois and farther east.

Pale Indian plantain is not in the plantain family, it is in the daisy or sunflower family. The word “Indian” in the common names of plants often essentially means “false,” designating a North American plant that somehow resembles an unrelated plant European settlers knew from the Old World. Exceptions are the names “Indian paintbrush” and “Indian pipe,” in which the plants were named for fancifully resembling objects used by Native Americans.

Botanists, many of whom love to garden themselves, have pointed out that this plant, with its interesting foliage, would make an attractive addition to the garden, but few nurseries are providing it.

Insects must cross-pollinate the flowers in order for viable seeds to be produced. Found throughout much of the eastern United States, this plant is rare enough in the state of New Jersey for it to have been declared endangered there.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

This 960-acre remnant prairie includes a 320-acre portion that was donated to the Missouri Department of Conservation by the Burns Family in 2002.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!