Some similarities to : other
Plantains such as Greater Plantain, but that has a much longer flowering spike without ridges on the flowering stem. Also, the leaves are long and narrow on Ribwort Plantain, but much broader on Greater Plantain.
Not to be semantically confused with : Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) which is a member of the Daisy & Dandelion Family (Asteraceae).
Uniquely identifiable characteristics
Distinguishing Feature : The coarse and six-ridged stem, hence the name ribwort plantain.
No relation to : any of the Water-Plantains such as Water-Plantain itself, which instead belong to the Water-Plantain Family (Alismataceae).
Ribwort Plantain loves to grow in lawns. It took your author a whole day to trowel out Ribwort Plantain from his lawn only a month later to discover that he had also trowelled out all the Daisies.
Ribwort Plantain is a metallophyte, capable not only of tolerating high levels of metals in the soil, but of accumulating them. Such plants are valuable as phytoremediators, able to de-contaminate polluted soils by hyperaccumulating some metals. Your author can find references to it being used to absorb zinc. But of course, it will only decontaminate ground if, after it has grown, it is cropped and disposed of safely! Unless, of course, the only objective is to cover bare ground with a (any) plant that will tolerate the contamination. It has been demonstrated that Ribwort Plantain also has the potential to develop rapid tolerance to arsenic (which is normally toxic to plants) and thus be a useful plant to decontaminate arsenic polluted lands.
Aucubin and Catalpol are both iridoid glycosides (containing glucose as the sugar: Glc) found in many plants belonging to the Plantain Family. Aucubin is detailed elsewhere under both Spotted Laurel (Aucuba japonica from which it gets its name) and Woodruff, for it also occurs widely in the Bedstraw Family. The Catalpol is present at a concentration of 0.16% with Aucubin a little lower at 0.11%. Of all the UK Plantains, Catalpol is only absent in Buck's-horn Plantain. Catalpol is also present in plants belonging to the Figwort, Buddleja and Dead-Nettle Families. In animals it stimulates the adrenal glands, and also seems to inhibit oxidative damage to the brain, and in particular neuron apoptosis, caused by hydrogen peroxide produced under certain circumstances within the body, particularly within the mitochodria. Catalpol may be a useful pharmaceutical in the treatment of Parkinsons disease. The major difference between Aucubin and Catalpol is the epoxy group on the cyclopentane ring which presumably opens up in the presence of hydrogen peroxide and snatches one of the oxygen atoms from it, neutralising it.