Scientific Names: Plantago lanceolata
Other names: Narrowleaf Plantain, Buckhorn Plantain, English Plantain, Lanceleaf Indianwheat, Lanceleaf Plantain, Ribgrass, Ribwort
This perennial is not usually a weed and is found mainly in meadows and on roadside verges. It is not as tolerant of trampling as P. major.
Ribwort Plantain has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times. The crushed leaves can be used to staunch blood-flow from a wound, it is antiseptic and washed with boiling water they can be applied as a poultice to promote healing. An ointment or lotion treats haemorrhoids and ulcers. Internally it is used for diarrhoea, irritable bowel, congestion and as a diuretic. The Saxons listed hundreds of ailments that could be treated with it.
Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, but they are bitter and fibrous. The seed can be cooked like sago or ground into a flour.
The root system of P. lanceolata can have up to 90% of its cells infected with mycorrhizal fungi which helps the plant to absorb nutrients. (It is the Endomycorrhizal or Arbuscular type that penetrates the cells). The hyphae are microscopic so are not visible to the naked eye.
This property can be used to as a source of the fungi to improve establishment of other plants. Lift the root-ball and chop it up before adding it to the growing medium so that it is in contact with the roots of the new plant, this will inoculate them with the fungi which will help the absorbsion of nutrients and water.
The leaves are lanceolate in shape with veins running lengthwise giving them the 'rib' effect. They form a basal rosette and usually point upwards.
The small, brown flowers appear in late spring to early summer. They are held aloft on a deeply furrowed stem which can be up to 45 cm tall, and they are wind-pollinated. The anthers are a buff colour and protrude from the sides of the infloresence
See also Broad-leaved Plantain which has similar astringent properties and can be used for wound healing.
If removal is necessary the plant is easily uprooted. The fibrous roots do not regenerate or spread around - the perenniating part is the basal crown. It can be treated with a systemic, or a selective weedkiller.