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Ribwort Plantain

Plantago lanceolata

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, meadows, riverbanks, roadsides, sand dunes, towns, walls, wasteland.

Brown, 4 petals
Short dense dark brown to black spikes, 2-4cm long, on furrowed stalks. Pale yellow anthers.
A fruit capsule, up to 4mm long. Contains between 1 and 3 yellow seeds.
The linear leaves are undivided or weakly toothed and tough and fibrous. They have prominent veins running parallel next to the midrib. Each leaf is up to 30cm long and 3.5cm wide. Hairless or slightly hairy.
Other Names:
Black Plantain, English Plantain, Lamb's Tongue, Lanceleaf Indianwheat, Lanceleaf Plantain, Narrowleaf Plantain, Narrow-leaved Plantain, Ribgrass, Ribleaf, Ribwort, Tinker-tailor Grass, Windles.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Plantago lanceolata, also known as narrow-leaved plantain or ribwort plantain, is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia but can be found all around the world. It is a low-growing plant that can reach a height of 20-60 cm. The leaves are basal, rosette-forming, and are typically dark green, glossy and smooth. The leaves are long and narrow, typically lance-shaped and have prominently veined. The flowers are small, white or green, and arranged in a spike-like inflorescence on a stem that rises above the leaves.

Plantago lanceolata is a hardy and adaptable plant that can be found in a wide range of habitats, including gardens, meadows, roadsides, lawns and disturbed areas. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun or partial shade. It is considered a weed in some parts of the world, but has medicinal properties and the leaves are edible, usually cooked, and can be used as a substitute for spinach.


Ribwort plantain, also known as Plantago lanceolata, is a herbaceous perennial plant that is commonly found in temperate regions around the world. It is a member of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae, and is known for its numerous health benefits and medicinal properties.

Description and Habitat

Ribwort plantain is a relatively small plant that grows up to 60cm in height. It has a rosette of lance-shaped leaves that grow from the base of the plant, with the leaves gradually becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. The plant produces a long, slender spike of small, greenish flowers in the summer months, which are followed by small capsules containing numerous seeds.

Ribwort plantain is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soils, from clay to sand, and it can tolerate a range of pH levels. It is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and waste areas, as well as along roadsides and in gardens.

Health Benefits

Ribwort plantain has been used for centuries for its many health benefits. The plant contains a number of active compounds, including aucubin, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and allantoin, which has skin-healing properties.

One of the most well-known uses of ribwort plantain is as a natural remedy for coughs and colds. The plant contains mucilage, which can soothe and protect the throat, and its anti-inflammatory properties can help to reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract. Ribwort plantain can be consumed as a tea or taken as a tincture to help alleviate coughs and other respiratory ailments.

In addition to its respiratory benefits, ribwort plantain has also been shown to have a number of other health benefits. For example, it has been used to treat digestive problems such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.


Ribwort plantain has a long history of use in traditional medicine, and it is still widely used today for a variety of health purposes. It can be consumed as a tea, taken as a tincture, or used topically as a poultice or cream.

In addition to its medicinal uses, ribwort plantain is also used in cooking. The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and they have a slightly bitter taste that is similar to spinach. The leaves can also be used to make a tea or a seasoning for soups and stews.

Ribwort plantain is a versatile plant that offers a wide range of health benefits and medicinal uses. Whether you are looking to alleviate respiratory symptoms, improve your digestion, or soothe your skin, ribwort plantain is a natural remedy that can help. With its easy-to-grow nature and numerous benefits, it is a plant that is well worth adding to your garden or herbal medicine cabinet.

Additional Information

Ribwort plantain, also known as narrow-leaved plantain, has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. In fact, it was even mentioned in the writings of the famous Greek physician, Dioscorides, who lived in the first century AD. The plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine, and it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, from respiratory problems to skin conditions.

In addition to its health benefits, ribwort plantain is also used in natural cosmetics and skincare products. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a popular ingredient in skincare formulations, and it can help to soothe and heal a variety of skin conditions.

Ribwort plantain is also an important plant for wildlife. It is a food source for a variety of insects, including bees and butterflies, and its seeds are a valuable source of food for birds and small mammals.

In addition to its traditional uses, ribwort plantain has also been studied for its potential therapeutic effects on a range of modern health issues. For example, research has shown that the plant contains compounds that may help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Ribwort plantain has also been studied for its potential anticancer effects. Some studies have found that the plant contains compounds that may help to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.

In traditional Chinese medicine, ribwort plantain has been used to treat diabetes. Recent research has suggested that the plant may help to regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, making it a promising natural remedy for this common health condition.

Finally, ribwort plantain has also been studied for its potential use as an antimicrobial agent. The plant contains compounds that have been shown to inhibit the growth of a range of bacteria and fungi, including some that are resistant to antibiotics. This makes it a promising natural alternative to conventional antimicrobial agents, which are becoming increasingly ineffective due to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Ribwort plantain is also a useful plant in permaculture and sustainable agriculture. Its deep root system can help to improve soil structure and prevent erosion, and it can be used as a natural weed suppressant in crop fields.

The plant also has a role to play in biodiversity conservation. It provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and other wildlife, and it is an important plant for the survival of many species of butterflies and moths.

In addition to its environmental benefits, ribwort plantain is also a valuable source of nutrition. The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and they are high in vitamins A and C, as well as a range of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The plant is also a source of dietary fiber, which can help to improve digestion and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Finally, ribwort plantain is also a plant with cultural significance. It has been used in traditional medicine and cuisine for centuries, and it has a rich history of folklore and symbolism. In many cultures, ribwort plantain is believed to have protective and healing properties, and it is often associated with themes of resilience, strength, and renewal.

Overall, ribwort plantain is a fascinating and multi-faceted plant that offers a range of environmental, nutritional, and cultural benefits. Whether you are interested in improving your health, supporting biodiversity, or simply exploring the rich diversity of plant life, ribwort plantain is definitely a plant worth getting to know.


Video 1: Ribwort Plantain filmed in Adlington, Lancashire (23rd April) and Pennington Flash, Lancashire (22nd April) in 2023.


Video 2:
 Ribwort Plantain at the side of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal on the 7th July 2022.


Music credits
Impact Moderato by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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