Plantago lanceolata

Plantain Family [Plantaginaceae]  

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14th May 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Burnley. Photo: © RWD
A favourite canal-edge location.

25th May 2005, Lancaster Canal. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are long, broad and visibly longitudinally heavily ribbed.

14th May 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Burnley. Photo: © RWD
The flowering stems long, with a single flowering head atop.

2nd May 2007, Leeds & Livepool Canal, Lydiate. Photo: © RWD
The flowering spikes' most conspicuous feature is the surrounding ring of creamy stamens. Note the conical seed heads and compare with the fasciated mutant below.

4th May 2015, Todmorden, Rochdale Canal, West Yorks. Photo: © RWD
A bird's-eye view of the many creamy anthers.

4th May 2015, Todmorden, Rochdale Canal, West Yorks. Photo: © RWD

2nd May 2007, Leeds & Livepool Canal, Lydiate. Photo: © RWD
Various parts of the flowering head are in flower at any one time.

2nd May 2007, Leeds & Livepool Canal, Lydiate. Photo: © RWD
The ridged stems are very tough and appear square.

18th April 2007, Peak Forest Canal, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The leaves markedly ribbed.


 Mutations Menu

25th June 2012, nr. Branscombe, Devon. Photo: © Rachel Folkes Parents
Looking more like a Sedge than Ribwort Plantain, apart its the very distinctive fluted stems and nearby leaves and that no sedges look like this. There are four heads, mostly similar.

25th June 2012, nr. Branscombe, Devon. Photo: © Rachel Folkes Parents
The conical seed head of further conical seed heads resembles the fractal flowers of Romanesque Cauliflower. Rather than this having the elongated flower head of most fasciated flowers, this has a conical flowering head emerging at every place where just one flower would normally be: a flowering head of flowering heads. See Fasciation in Dandelions and in Sugar Beet. This may instead be an example of Proliferation.

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.

Granville Frittilary
Heath Frittilary [Devon & Cornwall]


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.

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Plantago lanceolata

Plantain Family [Plantaginaceae]  

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