Materia Medica, Pharmacology & Bio-Prospecting

Plantago pyrophila vs. Plantago minor

The image is a specimen of Plantago pyrophila, collected by J. R. I. Wood, D. Villarroel, and P. Pozo from East Bolivia on October 24, 2007, and was provided to Kew Garden in the UK. This Plantago species is native to East Bolivia and appears in scenarios of post-burning. Thus, its flowering is most likely to be stimulated by fire. This particular Plantago species is distinguished by its red “wool” in the leaf axils and its tufted habit as well as its tuberous roots. This species is the only Plantago species from this cerrado biome, which makes it distinct amongst the total 240 Plantago species. The Cerrado is a tropical savanna located in East Bolivia where the Plantago pyrophila is the only species of its genus able to survive the frequent grassland fires.

Images of Plantago pyrophila are not found in other primary sources, however because this species physically looks similar to Plantago minor (also identified as Plantago lanceolata) in Leonhart Fuch’s illustration, we can see some similarities and differences between the two. Plantago minor and Plantago pyrophila differ in the leaves. Plantago minor has elliptic and thick leaves. Plantago pyrophila has a more oblong shape. Both species however are covered with wooly hairs. Plantago minor was used to treat “ulcers, malignancies, discharges of blood, and more,” which we can note Plantago pyrophila to perhaps have similar functions as they have similar morphologies.

Possible reasons that make the differences in representations and depictions between Plantago pyrophila and Plantago minor depend on the locations where the species was found. For example, Plantago pyrophila is found native in Bolivia whereas Plantago minor is native to Europe and North America— rendering each to be found on completely different continents. As a result, the collectors of each Plantago species have their own customs of recording data and gathering the plant for identification and classification purposes.


Fuchs, Leonhart. 1542. De historia stirpium commentarii insignes. University of Cambridge Digital Library. Accessed June 1, 2021.
Plantago pyrophila Villarroel & J.R.I.Wood: Plants of the World Online: Kew Science.” Plants of the World Online. Accessed June 3, 2021. 

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