Species Profile

Heart-leaved Plantain

Scientific Name: Plantago cordata
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Heart-leaved Plantain

Heart-leaved Plantain Photo 1
Heart-leaved Plantain Photo 2



The Heart-leaved Plantain is a perennial herb. The roots are branching, fleshy and massive. There is a rosette of large, heart-shaped leaves at the base of the plant. The small flowers are found on the top 20 cm of the flowering stems; individual plants have 80 to 130 flowers. The dark brown seeds measure 2.5 to 3.5 mm in length; each capsule contains two or three seeds.


Distribution and Population

The original North American range of the Heart-leaved Plantain extended from Ohio to Michigan and Minnesota, south to the southeastern United States. Today it is characterized by a widespread geographical range within which it has a very localized distribution. In Canada, the Heart-leaved Plantain is found only in two locations, both in southwestern Ontario.



The Heart-leaved Plantain is associated with the occurrence of limestone and dolomitic rock. It often grows within cracks of the bedrock or in gravel, in shallow, clear streams running through heavily wooded areas. It is often found close to limestone quarries and gravel pits. In Ontario, it occurs along intermittent streams in mature, silver maple swamp.



In Canada, the Heart-leaved Plantain begins to flower in mid-April. The plant is pollinated by wind. Self-pollination is possible because of self-compatibility and the presence of several spikes at different stages of maturity on the same plant. The average number of seed capsules per plant is 86. The seeds are dispersed by wind and water. Seedlings appear only a few weeks after the seeds have dispersed.



Habitat destruction and modification are the main limiting factors for the habitat-specific Heart-leaved Plantain. The plant is sensitive to water quality including eutrophication and siltation. Eutrophication favours the growth of algae; the algae then entrap the seeds and kill the seedlings. In addition to the need for high water quality, a large buffer of woods on either side of the stream is needed to prevent incidental cutting of the plantain and to provide shade. A drastic reduction in the amount of mature, wet woods has resulted from conversion to agriculture and alteration of natural stream courses through ditching, damming, siltation, pollution and stream flow changes. Cattle grazing and trampling eliminated one of the known Ontario populations.



Federal Protection

The Heart-leaved Plantain is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Heart-leaved Plantain is protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Heart-leaved Plantain (Plantago cordata) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Carolinian Woodland Plants Recovery Team

  • Jarmo Jalava - Chair/Contact - Other
    Phone: 705-760-2823  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

5 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Heart-leaved Plantain (2013)

    In Canada, only two populations of this semi-aquatic species are known both in undisturbed wet forest patches of the Carolinian zone of southwestern Ontario.  The species has declined throughout its range, as a result of deterioration or loss of the clear, shallow streams and seepages in which it occurs. The small range and specific habitat requirements of this species make it vulnerable to declines in habitat quality. The main threats include timber harvesting, agricultural runoff, alteration to riparian habitats, and other activities that contribute to eutrophication or siltation of the aquatic habitat.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Heart-leaved Plantain (Plantago cordata) in Canada (2013)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of Heart-leaved Plantain and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of Ontario, the Department of National Defence, and the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2012 (2013)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.