T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Plantago lanceolata (Narrow-leaved Plantain)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids 
Order: Lamiales 
Family: Plantaginaceae 
Genus: Plantago 
Species: P. lanceolata 
Binomial name: Plantago lanceolata
Common name: Narrow-leaved plantain, Ribwort plantain, English plantain

This is a very common perennial weed found in many lawns and pastures, and often in waste places as well. It is typically found in "run-down" pastures which do not have much grass and clover in them.
It doesn't cause any harm, and is actually eaten by livestock and thus is quite useful. However, pastures with more narrow-leaved plantain than grass are usually low-producing pastures, and so is often a sign that the pasture needs replacing. There can be some debate over whether this is really a weed in pastures. Certainly in lawns though, it has no useful features and generally creates an eye-sore.
The plant is a rosette-forming perennial herb, with leafless, silky, hairy flower stems (10–40 cm).
Its distinguishing features is that it’s the only weed that narrow-leaved plantain is likely to be confused with is broad-leaved plantain. However, the leaf shape and width are quite different. Also, the brownish fruits on the seed-head of narrow-leaved plantain are clustered closer to the tip of the stem than with broad-leaved plantain where fruits extend much further down the stem.
The basal leaves are lanceolate spreading or erect, scarcely-toothed with 3-5 strong parallel veins narrowed to short petiole. Grouping leaf stalk deeply furrowed, ending in an oblong inflorescence of many small flowers each with a pointed bract. Each flower can produce up to two seeds. Flowers 4 mm. (calyx green, corolla brownish), 4 bent back lobes with brown midribs, long white stamens. 



The seedhead.


Leaf of Plantago lanceolata


  

Closeup of the leaf's surface.


The narrow-leaved plantain seed head.