Ribwort Plantain

©Amy Lewis

Ribwort Plantain

©Philip Precey

Ribwort plantain

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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.

Top facts

Stats

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.

What to look for

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.

Where to find

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.