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Ribwort Plantain - Plantago lanceolata

Ribwort Plantain - Plantago lanceolata

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Narrowleaf Plantain, English Plantain, Buckhorn, Lamb's Tongue, Ribleaf

Season - Spring - Autumn

Scientific name meaning: Plantago is from the generic Latin term for this genus. Lanceolata is also Latin and means spear-like, referring to the leaves

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Habitat

Found in grassland, on wasteground and on roadsides. It particularly likes ground that has been disturbed by grazing animals. It is not found of very acid soils

Overall structure

Ribwort Plantain forms a rosette of many leaves. If in an area that is not mowed, the leaves stand erect, if the area is regularly mowed, they are often flat to the ground. In summer, it produces many leggy flower stalks that can reach 40 cm in height

Leaves

The bright-green leaves are narrow and lance-shaped. On their undersides they have three to five (3 - 5) raised parallel veins. The leaf stalk is very short.

Flowers

The hairy leafless flower stalks appear from mid-Spring to Summer and reach 40cm in height. The inflorescence is a brown coloured spike at the top of the flower stalk, from which the individual brownish white flowers on their own tiny stalks. 

Possible lookalikes

Could be confused with Hoary Plantain or Greater Plantain, but both of these have much wider leaves. Neither are poisonous.

Use as a food The unopened flower heads can be eaten raw and have a taste reminiscent of raw button mushrooms. 
The leaves are edible, but are bitter and it is best to remove the thick veins. 

The seeds can be ground into a flour or cooked

Hazards None known at time of writing

Other uses can be used to make dye, clothing starch and cordage

Use in herbal medicine Ribwort Plantain has been used as an antibiotic, antihistamine, styptic, hemostatic and astirngent. In addition, it has been used to treat chest, gastric and eye conditions; constipation, irritated mucus membranes and muscles; stings, haemorrhoids; cystitis, and internal parasites, and as part of a snake bite treatment.

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Importance to other species provides food for birds, moths, hoverflies and butterflies, including the rare Glanville Fritillary, whose caterplillars feed on its leaves

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!