The streamwise vortices generated by dielectric-barrier-discharge plasma actuators in the laminar boundary layer were investigated using particle image velocimetry to understand the vortex-formation mechanisms. The plasma vortex generator was oriented along the primary flow direction to produce a body force in the spanwise direction. This created a spanwise-directed wall jet which interacted with the oncoming boundary layer to form a coherent streamwise vortex. It was found that the streamwise vortices were formed by the twisting and folding of the spanwise vorticity in the oncoming boundary layer into the outer shear layer of the spanwise wall jet, which added its own vorticity to increase the circulation along the actuator length. This is similar to the delta-shaped, vane-type vortex generator, except that the circulation was enhanced by the addition of the vorticity in the plasma jet. It was also observed that the plasma vortex was formed close to the wall with an enhanced wall-ward entrainment, which created strong downwash above the actuator.