Ribwort Plantain

©Amy Lewis

Ribwort Plantain

©Philip Precey

Ribwort plantain

Scientific name: Plantago lanceolata
The brown, oval flower heads of Ribwort plantain balance on top of thin, wiry stems; the resulting seed heads provide food for birds in winter. Look for this 'weed' in lawns, fields and grasslands.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 50cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

Ribwort plantain is a plant of grasslands, field edges and cultivated ground and tracks, and regularly pops up in lawns as a weed. It flowers between April and October; in contrast to the long flower spikes of Greater plantain, the short, oval flower heads of Ribwort plantain appear as if balanced on the top of their thin, wiry stems. Its seed heads remain for most of the winter providing food for Goldfinches and other seed-eating birds.

How to identify

Ribwort plantain has spear-shaped leaves that form a rosette at the base of the plant. Short stems grow from its leaves, with compact flower heads that display protruding white stamens. The flower heads gradually turn brown and seed.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

Ribwort Plantain is the subject of a game that's similar to conkers - children pick the stems and knock the flower heads together, battling it out to see whose head drops off the stem first.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try leaving wilder areas in your garden, such as patches of buttercups in your lawn or nettles near your compost heap, to see who comes to visit? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.