Materia Medica, Pharmacology & Bio-Prospecting

Kew Gardens Plantago attenuata

This image comes from the Wallich Collection, the largest separate herbarium collection at Kew by Danish-born botanist Nathaniel Wallich. He was the superintendent at the East India Company’s (EIC) Botanic Garden at Sibpur near Calcutta in 1815. The Wallich Collection comprised of Wallich’s collections from India, Nepal, and Malaysia as well as plants growing from the Calcutta Botanic Garden and from collectors from the East India Company territories. His work is known as possibly the most extensive and influential distribution of Asian and Southeast Asian botanical material (Watson 2013, 1-4).

This image shows a typical full plant with leaves, stalks, and roots, and it also displays one isolated stalk and isolated flowers in three different stages of development. Wallich used an abundance of new plant names while making his catalog. This was most impactful to Asian botany in terms of naming for Asian plants. As it was often the first time many hundred of these Asian plants received published names (Watson 2013, 1-4). The name on the image says “Plantago attenuata Wall.” which indicates that the botanical name Plantago attenuata was created by Wallich; as “Wall.” is used as a standard author abbreviation to indicate Wallich as the person who validly published the botanical name (Majumdar and Banerjee 1976, 415 -417). Though since Kew Gardens listed this image under Plantago lanceolata, it is clear that the name made by Wallich did not continue in use and is known as an alternative name for Plantago lanceolata, as a commonly accepted species.

The plants from the Wallich Collection do not use description but Kew uses Flora Zambesiaca to describe Plantago lanceolata as: “a perennial herb, extremely variable glabrous, pubescent, or more rarely dense pilose, growing from a more or less erect stout short rhizome; roots terete, 0.1-75mm in diam.; stem serious” (Lehmann 1988, 9). Flora of Tropical East Africa describes Plantago lanceolata as: “[a]n extremely variable glabrous, pubescent or more rarely densely pilose perennial herb from a ± erect, thick, short rhizome; stem silky hairy” (Verdcourt 1971, 1-7). Both sources seem to give a very similar description, suggesting that the plant is uniform in appearance. Though if the descriptions were a bit different it could be simply coming from a regional variety or perhaps if the authors focused on different aspects.


Gordon, Bernard de. 1296. Lilium medicinae.Translated by Connelly, Erin. 2016. "Lylye of Medicynes: An Edition of the Fifteenth-century Translation of Bernard of Gordon’s Lilium medicinae." PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
Kew Gardens. n.d. “Plantago lanceolata L.” Plants of the World Online. Accessed May 31, 2021.
Lehmann, G. 1988. “Plantaginaceae.” Flora Zambesiaca Vol. 9, Part 1: 9.
Majumdar, N. C., and R. N. Banerjee. 1976. “A Note on the Citation of a Wallichian Specimen.” Bulletin Du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 46 (3/4): 415–17.
Verdcourt, B. 1971. “Plantaginaceae.” In Flora of Tropical East Africa, edited by E. Milne-Redhead and R. M. Polhill, 1-7. London: Crown Agents.
Watson, Mark. 2013. “The Wallich Catalogue Project.” Botanics Stories (blog). February 21, 2013.

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