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Plantago lanceolata is a species of flowering plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae. It is known by the common names ribwort plantain,[1] narrowleaf plantain,[2] English plantain [3], ribleaf[citation needed] and lamb's tongue [4]. It is a common weed of cultivated land.

Ribwort plantain
Ribwort 600.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Plantago
P. lanceolata
Binomial name
Plantago lanceolata


The plant is a rosette-forming perennial herb, with leafless, silky, hairy flower stems (10–40 cm or 3.9–15.7 in). The basal leaves are lanceolate spreading or erect, scarcely toothed with 3-5 strong parallel veins narrowed to a short petiole. The flower stalk is deeply furrowed, ending in an ovoid inflorescence of many small flowers each with a pointed bract. [5]:248 Each flower can produce up to two seeds. Flowers 4 millimetres (0.16 in) (calyx green, corolla brownish), 4 bent back lobes with brown midribs and long white stamens. It is native to temperate Eurasia, widespread throughout the British Isles, but scarce on the most acidic soils (pH < 4.5). It is present and widespread in the Americas and Australia as an introduced species.


Plantago lanceolata is native to Eurasia, but has been introduced to North America and many other parts of the world with suitable habitats.[6]


Plantago lanceolata (Japan)
An inflorescence that has set seeds.

Considered to be an indicator of agriculture in pollen diagrams, P. lanceolata has been found in western Norway from the Early Neolithic onwards, something considered an indicator of grazing in that area.[7]


Plantago lanceolata is used frequently in herbal teas and other herbal remedies.[8] A tea from the leaves is used as a highly effective cough medicine. In the traditional Austrian medicine Plantago lanceolata leaves have been used internally (as syrup or tea) or externally (fresh leaves) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, insect bites, and infections.[9]


Plantago lanceolata contains phenylethanoids such as acteoside (verbascoside), cistanoside F, lavandulifolioside, plantamajoside and isoacteoside.[10] It also contains the iridoid glycosides aucubin and catalpol.[11]


Plantago lanceolata, can live anywhere from very dry meadows to places similar to a rain forest.[12]


The mode of reproduction can vary among populations of P. lanceolata.[13] Reproduction can either occur asexually via cloning or sexually, with the pollen being wind dispersed.[13] In the populations that reproduce asexually via cloning, genetic variation is much lower than the populations that reproduce sexually.[12]


Insect PredationEdit

P. lanceolata is host to many different species of the order Lepidoptera. Species such as Junonia coenia, Spilosoma congrua, and Melitaea cinxia lay their eggs on P. lanceolata plants so they can serve as a food source for the larvae when they hatch.[14][15]

Infection by powdery mildewEdit

Podosphaera plantaginis is a powdery mildew fungus that infects P. lanceolata. All of the P. lanceolata populations are infected by several strains of this powdery mildew fungus.[16] Once the populations are infected, the symptoms are minimal at first. Then, after a few months lesions start to appear covering the entire surface of the leaves and the stem, making it very noticeable.[12] Another species that infects P. lanceolata is Golovinomyces sordidus.

Resistance to powdery mildewEdit

After the populations are infected, they react in different ways. Some populations of P. lanceolata are more susceptible to different strains of powdery mildew. Also, some populations have multiple resistance phenotypes where on the other hand, others may only have one resistance phenotype.[12] Overall, the populations that have the highest variety of resistance phenotypes will have the highest survival rates particularly when rates of infection are high.[12]

In Popular CultureEdit

In the UK and Ireland the plant is used by children to play various simple games. In Edinburgh, Scotland this game is called ‘The 1 o’clock gun’ after the gun that fires everyday from Edinburgh Castle. Writer Sean Michael Wilson notes that: "When I was a kid in Edinburgh we used it for a cute wee game called ‘The 1 o’clock gun’ - we twisted the stalk around into a kind of noose, quickly pulled it (with the left hand pulling back sharply and the right hand moving forward) and then the head of the stalk would go shooting off. Piitttt!! We used to see how far we could get it to go - great fun." In the West Country of England the same game is called 'cannonballs'. Another game played with the plant in Scotland and Ireland and possibly also in England is called 'Bishops'. This game is a bit like conkers, in which a child tries to knock off the head of their friend's stalk with their own stalk, via a fast downward thrust. The origin of these games is unknown but thought to date back hundreds of years.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2014-10-23. Retrieved 2014-10-17. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ "Plantago lanceolata". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Blamey, M.; Fitter, R.; Fitter, A (2003). Wild flowers of Britain and Ireland: The Complete Guide to the British and Irish Flora. London: A & C Black. ISBN 978-1408179505.
  6. ^ Anderberg, Arne. "Den Virtuella Floran, Pinguicula vulgaris L." Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden.
  7. ^ Hjelle, K. L.; Hufthammer, A. K.; Bergsvik, K. A. (2006). "Hesitant hunters: a review of the introduction of agriculture in western Norway". Environmental Archaeology. 11 (2): 147–170. doi:10.1179/174963106x123188.
  8. ^ Val plantes herbal ice tea Archived 2009-07-25 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Vogl S, Picker P, Mihaly-Bison J, et al. (October 2013). "Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine--an unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 149 (3): 750–71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. PMC 3791396. PMID 23770053.
  10. ^ Phenylethanoids in the Herb of Plantago lanceolata and Inhibitory Effect on Arachidonic Acid-Induced Mouse Ear Edema. Michiko Murai (nee Sasahara), Yasuhiko Tamayama and Sansei Nishibe, Planta Med., 1995;, volume 61, issue 5, pages 479-480, doi:10.1055/s-2006-958143
  11. ^ Genetic variation in defensive chemistry in Plantago lanceolata (Plantaginaceae) and its effect on the specialist herbivore Junonia coenia (Nymphalidae). Lynn S. Adler, Johanna Schmitt and M. Deane Bowers, Oecologia, January 1995, Volume 101, Issue 1, pages 75-85, doi:10.1007/BF00328903
  12. ^ a b c d e Laiine, Anna Lisa. 2005. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 18, 930-938.
  13. ^ a b Jousimo, Jussi. 2014. Ecological and evolutionary effects of fragmentation on infectious disease dynamics. Science AAAS Journal. Science 344, 1289-1293.
  14. ^ Stamp, Nancy E.; Bowers, M. Deane (1993-09-01). "Presence of predatory wasps and stinkbugs alters foraging behavior of cryptic and non-cryptic caterpillars on plantain (Plantago lanceolata)". Oecologia. 95 (3): 376–384. Bibcode:1993Oecol..95..376S. doi:10.1007/BF00320992. ISSN 0029-8549. PMID 28314014.
  15. ^ Van Nouhuys, Saskya; Singer, Michael C.; Nieminen, Marko (2003-04-01). "Spatial and temporal patterns of caterpillar performance and the suitability of two host plant species". Ecological Entomology. 28 (2): 193–202. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2311.2003.00501.x. ISSN 1365-2311.
  16. ^ Laiine, Anna Lisa. 2004. Resistance variation within and among host populations in a plant- pathogen metapopulation: implications for regional pathogen dynamics. Journal of Ecology 92, 990-1000.

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