Ribwort Plantain – Plantago lanceolata

A species introduced to the Garden as part of a native meadow mix sown in 2022. Its a common species out in the wider world beyond the Garden, often considered an early coloniser of disturbed places and agricultural grass leys. Its familiarity and its lack of showy flowers makes it easy to dismiss as an unimportant plant. However it adds valuable structure to any wildflower meadow and seems to be popular with many different kinds of invertebrates, not just insects. Crustaceans (woodlice, see below) and Molluscs (snails) for example.

Its very easy to distinguish this species from other familiar plantains. Its lanceolate leaves (long and narrow) are unlike those of Greater Plantain or Hoary Plantain, which are usually much more rounded.

Other features include a deeply furrowed flower stem.

Furrowed flowering stem

The seed head shown above will last through most of the following winter and its seeds will be a food source for hungry birds during this period. And note the flowering stems have no leaves or side branches.

Bare flowering stem, no branches or leaves

The leaves have 3 to 5 ribs beneath (1*), 5 in the example below and have small teeth.

5 ribs on underside of leaf, which is slightly toothed

It has established well in the Garden and could possibly be self sustaining. Like most the wildflowers introduced in the mix, it is a perennial plant.

DC: 10/05/2023

  1. Blamey, M. Fritter, R, Fritter, A. (2003) Wild Flowers of Britain & Ireland. A & C Black Publishing Ltd, London