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Pale Indian plantain

Pale Indian plantain in full flower.

Pale Indian plantain is a herbaceous perennial with a large central stalk, silvery-coated, irregularly-shaped leaves, and a terminal, flat-topped inflorescence of white flowers surrounded by stiff green bracts. The late to midsummer flowers work for naturalizing, back of the border and cottage gardens.

Botanical name:

Arnoglossum atriplicifolium (syn. Cacalia atriplicifolia)

All Common Names:

Pale Indian plantain

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:


Upright, mounds of basal leaves up to 3 feet high, with flower stalk plants can reach 8 feet high.

Plant Care

Sun to part shade in well drained soil. Tolerant of moist soil.
Can be aggressive once established, due to prolific seed production.

Disease, pests, and problems

None serious.

Native geographic location and habitat

Found throught North America in dry open woods, rocky woodlands, thickets, slopes and alone streams.
C-Value: 8

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Butterflies and other pollinators

Leaf description

Alternate,  low mounds of fan-shaped to triangular leaves (deltate), similar to sycamore leaves, up to 12 inches wide.
Thick and leathery with upper surface medium green and lower surface has a grayish white bloom giving it a light green color.
Margin have shallowly pointed lobes.
Stems are reddish and glaucous, smooth with smaller palmately lobed leaves as the move futher up the stem.

Flower description

A thick, central stalk holds flat-topped cluster (corymbs) of tiny white tubular flowers.
Each disk flower has a cream-colored corolla with light green bracts. Blooms mid-summer to early fall.
An insect (wasp, flies and bees) must cross pollinate flower for plants to produce viable seeds.

Fruit description

Achene with tufts of white hairs.

Related species and their differences 

Prairie Indian plantain (Arnoglossum plantagineum): A 3 to 4 foot high prairie wildflower with thick elliptical leaves and distinct parallel veins. A stout central stem has conspicuous red veins. Flowers are flat-topped clusters of small white flowers in early May through June.


Location of Arnoglossum atriplicifolium (syn. Cacalia atriplicifolia) (Pale Indian plantain) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.