(a) The germination of Plantago lanceolata L., P. coronopus L., P. major L. ssp.major. P. major L. ssp. pleiosperma Pilger, P. media L., and P. maritima L. in relation to the age of dry-stored seeds was investigated under laboratory conditions. In general, higher percentages of radicle emergence were found with two- to five-year-old seed than with fresh seed. Only P. lanceolata and P. media seeds germinated in complete darkness. A feature of interest was the high germination of both subspecies of P. major in so-called green safelight. (b) The germination and early establishment were tested on various microsites, obtained with glass beads of various sizes. At increasing particle size, an increase in radicle emergence was found for large seeds ( P. lanceolata and P. media). Root penetration of the surface occurred sooner on substrates of large particles than on those of small ones. The effects of size of the glass beads on germination and penetration were less in species with small seeds than in species with large seeds. (c) Sowing tests in the field resulted in relatively high numbers of established P. lanceolata and P. coronopus seedlings in open and dry habitats. P. lanceolata seedlings were able to establish themselves in tall dense vegetation layers. P. major ssp. major occurred most frequently on moist and open sites with a compact soil. On trodden paths P. major and P. coronopus seedlings showed opposite mortality curves.