Plantain Wars

See this plant?

Until last year, I barely realized it existed.  But now I know it intimately by name: PLANTAIN.

Of course, I’d seen it before, but I never really noticed or cared much.  Not until I had bought my first house, which included my first very own lawn, and this nasty weed threatened to TAKE OVER MY YARD. 

Not that I’m one of those Cardigan-wearing Lawn Nazis who insists on perfectly-manicured grass and who hoses down their driveway every morning.  

No.  Far from it.

My lawn is a mix-and-match of all kinds of flora, including some actual grass.  I don’t mind a few weeds…my yard doesn’t have to be perfect. 

But it WOULD BE NICE if it looked slightly better than a weedy soccer field (which is what I would have had last summer, if I had let these Bastard-Plants win).

I wasn’t thrilled about using herbicide chemicals (Splat Creek has a by-law against it, plus there were little magotty kids running around next door).  I’d have felt just awful if they’d have gotten toe-cancer or leprosy 30 years from now.   

So the only other choice was to remove the weeds manually.  

But Ugh.  What a daunting task.  There was plantain by the HUNDREDS.   

This infestation also happened to coincide with a really bad phase at work I was going through at the time.   I was in a really toxic environment, working with a Quintessential Fuck-Wit who made my job so miserable it started affecting my health. 

So when I came home totally stressed out, I actually found it fun to rip out the plantain.  Suddenly, this wasn’t just a weed problem anymore.  It became my LIFE MISSION. 

So that’s what I did.  I ripped out the plants.  One by one.

I didn’t go nuts.  I did it maybe 20-30 minutes a day, and then I’d go fishing or do something else.   But it was surprisingly therapeutic.   Rip out the Bad…leave the Good behind.  Rip out the Bad….etc.   

And sure enough, my nice lawn started to re-appear.  Every day, a few more feet of territory gained.   Within 3 weeks, the plantain was gone. 

Veni, Vidi, Vici….I had defeated the Vile Weed!   It was immensely satisfying, much more so than anything I had accomplished at the office.     

But this year, I’m dismayed to report that the plantain is baaa-aack.     

There’s thankfully almost none on the Western Front where I waged battle last year.   But the troops are starting to gain a stronghold on the North-Eastern Quadrant (The Disputed Territories of the Back Yard). 

Of course you know, this means WAR.

So this year I tried something Different:  CHEMICAL WARFARE.

(Now, don’t worry, I’m still being a good little green Friar, I just used vinegar).  I sprayed it on the weeds, and was delighted to see the leaves shrivel up and turn brown after a day or so.   

YESSSSSS!!!!  I had disrupted their photosynthesis process!   There was a delightful patch of brown death there the plants used to thrive.  It was my cheap version of Agent Orange.   I thought I had defeated the invader, once again.

Though it appears to be just temporary.  New green leaves are re-appearing as we speak, amid the acid-burnt carnage.    

It’s not’s resting.  I’ve just stunned it.

So now it’s back to manually ripping the little bastards out by the roots.   To help me, I bought one of those forked garden weeders, and it’s doubled my weed-killing efficiency.

I’ve also changed my tactics slightly.  Instead of composting the dead weeds as yard-waste,  I just let their uprooted corpses slowly dry out in the sun. Over the next day or two, I take the satisfaction of watching them DIE!  DIE!  DIE! 

Then the lawnmower mulches them up, and returns their souls to the soil, from whence they came.

So I think I’m winning the battle again.

I never realized how caring for a lawn had such CONFLICT and DRAMA.   

But part of me wonders maybe, just maybe….I also need to get a life. 🙂


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29 Comments on “Plantain Wars”

  1. Kelly Says:


    I’m that way with clover. Sitting there, ripping out the mothers, then following the runners along and taking out all the suckers gets me in zen lawn-ninja state. (Gee I almost wish I had a lawn of my own right now—I have a sudden urge to attack!)

    I haven’t had plantain to deal with, but that forked-doohickey is awesome on dandelions. I know just the tool you mean.

    Good luck.



    P.S. Who was that cartoon dog (70s?) who used to flip up in the sky and get totally goofy when something made him happy? That’s what I did when you used Veni Vidi Vici here. 🙂 You are one cool Friar.

  2. Friar Says:


    So you understand too..about the zen-like ninja state when weeding.

    You know, I could have almost written about how Life is Metaphor for a Garden

    How we all have our personal “Weeds” to deal with. We must rip them out by the roots, in order to fully rid ourselves of them. This leaves us time to devote our energies towards the “Flowers”. In this way, we can nurture our own Inner Garden of Beauty.

    (Snicker..). (This is where I tilt my head and look upwards pensively…)

    Yeah, I COULD have written about that…but that wouldn’t be the Friar.

    By the way, you got me scratching my heads, about that cartoon dog. (I should KNOW THIS!!!).

    Not Scooby Doo. Not Underdog. (?????).

  3. Brett Legree Says:


    Good post – very entertaining! My turn to be devil’s advocate heh heh…

    I don’t understand our society’s fascination with growing a “crop” which is a) not native to the environment and b) doesn’t give you a physical return.

    If aesthetics is all we desire, surely there are alternatives that don’t take as much time? Or perhaps that is the attraction?

    If I had my way, my lawn would be covered with whatever grows naturally. I can think of better uses for water and gasoline…

    But – I can see it gives some folks enjoyment – so have at it!

    Perhaps suburbanites keep lawns so that they can stay in touch with their “farming roots”? When I get to the point that I feel the need to farm the land, I’ll buy a farm and grow some potatoes 🙂

  4. Steph Says:

    Friar: once again I marvel at your writing! You’re a joy to read! And that comment, the one about ridding ourselves of the weeds so we can spend more time with the flowers!! I LOVE how you suggest this ideas that have us reeling and then you say, yeah, but NAW, that just wouldn’t be me. It’s hilarious! You’re such a tease. Look how the ladies swoon when you use words like ersatz and phrases like veni, vedi, vici.

    @ Brett: I have often puzzled over this as well. There are times when I suddenly step back and see things for what they really are. I ponder people going out and mowing lawns. I’ve talked about it with Colin before. It seems funny to me. But I admit, I love the look of a freshly mowed lawn, all nice and neat. What interested me most about your comment was the suggestion that it might have something to do with our historical need to cultivate and farm. That’s very interesting! Or perhaps it is our need to be controlling and dominating, to master and tame the wild? I actually find this fascinating!

  5. Ellen Wilson Says:

    That’s really rough getting them out of your yard. I don’t like chemicals unless I have to absolutely use them. Of course, anything is a chemical. Even “natural” stuff.

    I wonder how plaintains propagate?

  6. Friar Says:

    I read somewhere (dont’ ask me where) that our little monkey brains like to see freshly cut grass. Goes back to our ancestral days when we swung from the trees, and were able to see predators far away on the open African Grasslands.

    Whatever. Sounds like a good theory to me, though.

    You’re right. Though. What an absolute waste of gas and water. That’s why you don’t see me tooting my own horn as Mr. Environmentalist.

    Knowing this town, there’s probably a by-law for letting your grass grow into a forest.

    I was trying to put that part about Life and Gardening into the main post. But it didnt’ seem to fit with the rest of the smart-ass theme.

    (Not to mention, I dont’ think I’d have been able to do it without keeping a straight face). OMG…I was cracking myself up while writing all that “Inspirational” stuff. 🙂

    That spiky thing on the middle of the plant is the bloom…I assume that’s where the seeds come from.

    Almost makes sense. I’m finding micro-clusters of these tiny plants..probalby where the Mother Plant spread its spores. (Of course, when I find these I grind them into the soil with my feet!) 🙂

  7. Brett Legree Says:

    @Steph & Friar,

    That’s probably it – we like to see it because we’ve grown accustomed to it somehow. I will have to check back, but for some reason I think it is linked into the suburbanization that happened after WW2. I have a movie called “The End of Suburbia” that talks about us moving out of the cities and into the country, and how it was important to give each landowner a “lawn”. If I find it I’ll report back… 🙂

    In any case – perhaps when gasoline is $10/gallon folks will grow crops instead of grass!

    (Unless they’re growing “grass” heh heh not that I advocate that… Bob Marley, on the other hand…)

  8. A. Gardener Says:

    @ Friar and Ellen
    Yes those things at the top of the stem are tiny seed pods. When I yank out plantain, I make sure I don’t put it into the compost or leave it on the lawn, because they will reseed.

    If you can’t beat them join them. Plantain is edible. Make sure the leaves have not been sprayed with herbicides. They can be put into a salad or blanched and sautéed in butter and garlic. I have not been enticed to eat this noxious weed. However, I enjoy Stella Dora lilly petals in my salad.

    For more info, the following website explains about numerous medicinal uses of Plantain. Native Americans carried powdered roots of Plantain as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes.

    Hmm! Friar, you have a goldmine in your yard. Maybe you can get a government grant and start a small business.

  9. Friar Says:

    @A. Gardener

    I’m kinda skeptical…if Plantain is so yummy, howcum we don’t see it in supermarkets and people aren’t growing it in their gardens?

    “Edible” probably means you can eat it and not get sick. I bet you Plantain tastes like crap, though.

    I got no seed pods yet (Still to early) so I dont think there’s a risk of them re-seeding themselves.

    What’s even stupider, is in the Soutwest. You have people insisting on lush lawns right in the middle of the Mojave dessert (where the water supplies are already strained to the max).

    A veggie garden is tolerable. But I just wish there was some way to grow cheeseburgers and pizza.

  10. neyellen Says:

    @Gardner – Yes, I hear these plantains are very good deep fried. Thank you. Do you have a web site with recipes?

    @Friar – We grow cheeseburgers in the form of cows. Obviously you do NOT know where your food comes from. And really, one person’s plaintain is another persons banana.

  11. A. Gardener Says:

    For recipies, just Google “Plantain weed recipes”. One recipe is for creamed ham and plantain. Young leaves are recommended, otherwise they may be bitter.

    Somehow, creamed ham doesn’t turn me on, even the photo is not appetizing.

  12. Friar Says:

    Well, DUH. I know where cheesburgers come from!

    But woudlnt’ it be great if there was a plant that grew fresh cheesburgers….that you could pick, right off the vine? Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ about!

    Well, heck…ANYTHING tastes good deep-fried. That’s kind of cheating!

    (Creamed Ham….). Ugh. If you’re trying to turn me off plantain…mission accomplished! 🙂

  13. Snuffles. From Quick Draw McGraw. 🙂

    Deep fried Plantains are altogether different. They’re like bananas, only not. You can get plantain chips at some Whole Foods like stores.

    Crows, plantain invaders…it’s a jungle out there, Friar…

  14. Friar Says:

    @Janice that explains it. (I never saw Quick Draw McGraw growing up…we only got 2 channels on our TV…growing up, I missed out on a lot of great cartoons from South of the border).

    Crows. Plantain. Black Flies. Oh My!

    (But the fishing has picked up considerably the past few weeks). I’ll keep you posted!

  15. Ohh, maybe Snufflles is on utube. I loved Snuffles and actually got to meet the man who did the voice . Not as cool as when I met the Three Stooges, but he was a nice guy.

    Ooh, I need some fish shots for the silks. 🙂 I have to go paint for just a few more minutes. Then big plans: A glass of wine and some ridiculously silly TV shows tonight -Wipe Out and I survived a Japanese Game Show. Not exciting literature in action but maybe Murakami, Kurasowa , Felliniesgue. Yeah, maybe, I should get a life too. 🙂

  16. neyellen Says:

    @Friar – I do not want cheeseburger plants. I would rather have to go out and hunt. Fortunately I do not have to do that. Other people do that for me. I have a hard time killing things. The best that I can do is kill a bug. That’s hurting me. Bastard bugs!

    I do know how to shoot a shotgun and am a mean skeet target, but have yet to get a pheasant. And I can’t eat fish, because I’m allergic to them. So Mike does all of that.

    Actually, I don’t think I could pheasant hunt without a bird dog because I don’t want the birds to suffer.

    Oh what a wimp I am. Listening to the cries of vegetables.

    The thin skinned one. E

  17. Friar Says:

    NO WAY!!?! You met the Three Stooges? That would have been AWESOME! I’d have loved to meet those guys!

    My claim to fame is I met Jim Unger (the guy who did the “Herman” comic strips. I have an autographed Herman cartoon original. It’s probably worth something.

    I’m probably going to chill out tonight and watch Family Guy or South Park or Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel. I’m in a burnt out mood.

    That’s okay…the vegetables forgive you.

    I’ve never shot anything. (It’s such a pain in the butt getting a firearms licence in Canada and a hunting licence..I can’t be bothered). But I fish. Bonk. Bonk. Over the head, and into the frying pan.

    And once, when visiting a friend on their farm, I helped butcher one of their chickens for dinner.

    I figure I should this at least ONCE…to see first hand where food comes from. (And not have a shrink-wrapped chicken breast served to me in the grocery store).

    It wasn’t pretty..but hey. Someone’s gotta do it.

    (In addition to Cheesburger plants…I think a pizza plant would be cool). With extra pepperoni.

  18. Kelly Says:

    Snuffles! He hugged himself and went up in the sky and floated down. I didn’t watch a lot of cartoons, but I remember him so well.

    Thanks Janice, that would have plagued me for a while.

    Mm-mmm… Plantains (the banana kind), fried in butter, flambeed with cognac, topped with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream.

    You’ll forget all about the weed with that in front of you.

  19. Friar Says:


    Wow….you certainly get Friar Appreciation Prize for being the most frequent commenter on my blog this week ! 🙂

    I”m totally unfamiliar with the banana kind of plantain. We dont’ get that kind of stuff up north.

    Though we are on the cusp of blueberry season (The wild kind…which are just AWESOME).

    You gotta watch out for the Bahrs, though. (They like the berries too).

  20. neyellen Says:

    You still are an ass.

  21. neyellen Says:

    Vegetables are no better than humans. so there. Give that to your hierarchy. I like plantains. and their brethren. let them prosper.

    WTF is wrong with you Canucks? Don’t you eat up there or what? There is a shit load of moose up there to last you for a whole season. All you have to do is smoke it.

  22. Friar Says:


    …aaaaand….LOVING IT. 🙂

  23. neyellen Says:

    Well, yeah, you have to kill it first. Sorry. I forgot that small detail that I don’t do.


    If I’m hungry enough I fit the bill.

  24. Friar Says:


    There are no vegatarians in foxholes (or something like that).

    That could be another Friar quote.

  25. Friar,
    Yep. Met the Stooges. Guys fall over when they find that out. It was totally fabulous. They were so cool. I’ll bet your autographed cartoon is worth something.
    I made a friend in Santa Fe last year who has worked for MAD Magazine forever. He gave me an autographed book he did of animal cartoons. It’s really a fun side of him.

    BTW, Wipeout, and I Survived a Japanese Game Show are hilariously ridiculous. I like Family Guy, but, gulp, I have never seen South Park.

    Kelly- You are so welcome. I loved that dog. I used to imitate him when I got something really good. yum… Bananas Foster… Dog floating stuff right there. 🙂

  26. Friar Says:


    Wow…MAD Magazine. I’m a big fan (well, for the older issues….especially the 6’s and 70’s). What was your friends name?

    We don’t get Wipeout or the Japanese Game Show.

    You might like Southpark. Or you might not. A genteel lady like yourself with refined tastes… Southpark can be a little “rough” around the edges. But I think it’s one of the funniest shows on TV.

  27. Hi Friar,
    Paul Coker, Jr. . The book he gave me is called The MAD Pet book which was published in 1983. You’ d like it. On the back the critic blurbs are from such notable publications as The Hyena Home Companion, Crocodile Chronicle, Goose Gazette, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and my favorite , the Worm Gazette.
    Paul and I worked side by side every Friday all day drawing nudes, really good ones. So it is fun to have his cartoons too.
    I always liked Spy vs Spy.

    Over 10 Million People watched those two shows last night, Wipe Out And the Japanese Game Show. They were whacky and fun. I may have to give in and try Southpark. ..

  28. Friar Says:




    I’m a HUGE fan!

    I’ve followed his cartoons in MAD since I was eight. He’s a genius..he’s one of my cartoon heroes!

    I would look at his pictures over and over…look at how he drew his facial expressions and how he’d exaggerate things. This helped me learn to draw my own cartoons…

    Oh, man..that is SO COOL!!! I would have LOVED to have met him! You’re so lucky!

    Did you know he created the cartoon characters in the old TV Christmas Specials “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snow Man” ?

    He’s in the show’s credits. If you look closely, the characters on those shows resemble his cartoons in MAD Magazine.

  29. chris Says:

    Too bad. What you think is the enemy would be your best friend if you took the time to know it. Plantain, burdock and even dandelion have huge medicinal and nutritional value. Google and see.

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