Plantago major and asiatica

Since New York Botanic Garden started their “Go Find Plantago” project, I have been focusing an inordinate amount on plantains. This has gotten me thinking about Plantago asiatica and Plantago major. Only major is recorded here in NYC, but from what I know, asiatica is used for food occasionally, so it may be present. However, I don’t know how to tell them apart, even after a bit of research, or whether they are indeed synonyms. INaturalist seems to kinda treat them as synonyms, (asiatica pops up major) but not fully (there is also a P asiatica species page).

If anyone has any tips, they’d be super helpful!

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Welcome to the forum and thank you for the question!

I don’t know enough about the two species to offer ID help, but can give a taxonomic update. Although asiatica has sometimes been treated as Plantago major var. asiatica, iNaturalist’s plant taxonomic framework, Plants of the World Online (POWO), currently treats Plantago asiatica as a separate species, and so does the new Flora of North America North of Mexico, vol. 17. I couldn’t find any reason why iNaturalist would be listing it as a synonym, so the name has been removed from the Plantago major page. Now it should only pop up the Plantago asiatica name and page.

Flora of North America vol. 17, p. 281, makes the following statement:

“A specimen of P. asiatica Linnaeus (New York City, US 295731) is ambiguous as to locality, and there is no evidence that it is established outside of cultivation in the flora area.”

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It should not be extremely difficult to tell them apart. P. asiatica is described with shortly pedicellate flowers while in P. major theyare always sessile:
http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=125735
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308759914_Flowering_behaviors_of_the_inflorescences_of_an_alien_plant_Plantago_asiatica_an_alpine_plant_Plantago_hakusanensis_and_their_hybrids_on_Mt_Hakusan_Japan

PS: I suggest you not to take into great consideration the number of seeds for each fruit, in Europe this number in P. major it is extremely variable.

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Wow! Thank you both for the good information! That’s really helpful!