I spent the week participating in a really inspiring workshop put on by the dedicated folks at Lane County’s School Garden Project. Our group visited the Camas Ridge Elementary School garden, which was stocked with great pollinator plants like borage, Bachelor’s Buttons, and lavender. What really caught my attention, though, was that in the midst of all this fabulous forage, a honey bee was enthusiastically gathering pollen from this humble Narrow Leaf plantain. The bee’s pollen baskets were bursting, and it headed off to find more plantain before I could photograph it.
Plantain has an interesting characteristic in that the plants come in two flavors–male and female. The plant pictured here is the male counterpart; the little “flags” (the anthers) carry the pollen. I later found out that this plant was purposefully included as part of the school’s traditional medicinal garden, but plantain more often appears uninvited in the role of a weed. The fact that it is here adding nutritional diversity for pollinators in the midst of a vast expanse of asphalt playground makes a great case for less-than-perfect landscape maintenance!