Plantago lanceolata (ribwort plantain)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Plantago lanceolata L.
Preferred Common Name
- ribwort plantain
International Common Names
- English: buckhorn plantain; English plantain; lance-leaf plantain; lanceolate plantain; narrowleaf plantain; narrow-leaved plantain; ribgrass; ribwort
- Spanish: llantén menor
- French: petit plantain
- Portuguese: tanchagem menor
Local Common Names
- Cuba: llantén
- Germany: Spitzwegerich
- Italy: cinquenervi; lanciuola cinquenervi; mestolaccio; piantaggine commune
- Japan: heraoobako
- Netherlands: weegbree, smalle
- South Africa: bolilanyana; German psyllium; klein tongblaar; lamb's tongue; narrow leaved ribwort; oorpynhoutjie; oorpynwortels; ripplegrass; smalblaarplantago; small plantain; smalweeblaar; smalweebree; smalweegbree; weeblaar; wild sago
- Sweden: kaempar, svart-; spetsgroblad
- PLALA (Plantago lanceolata)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page There are little data to suggest that this species is a priority invasive species in its native range: it is principally a weed of arable field margins rather than the fields themselves. However it has dispersed widely throughout the temperate, and some of the tropical world, and is common in arable land and pastures. It has proved a problem in specific instances in the tropics and its lack of invasiveness in other areas may reflect global prophylactic use of broadleaf herbicides rather than an inherent lack of invasiveness in the species. It is a perennial and is, therefore, susceptible to cultivation. Traditional chemical control has proved effective.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Plantaginales
- Family: Plantaginaceae
- Genus: Plantago
- Species: Plantago lanceolata
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page Sagar and Harper (1964) note that a number of varieties have been recognised on the basis of hairiness, etc., but that the differences are often obscured as a result of phenotypic variation, and have not been adequately researched.
DescriptionTop of page P. lanceolata is a small, glabrous to pubescent perennial with one to several rosettes; leaves linear- to narrowly ovate-elliptic, 2-30 x 0.5-3.5 cm, very gradually narrowed to the petiole, entire to sparsely and weakly toothed; bracts 2.5-3.5 mm, the anterior connate for most of their length but their midribs separate, often shortly hairy. Scapes to 50 cm deeply furrowed. Inflorescence a spike, up to 4(-8) cm long. Flowers bisexual, inconspicuous, corolla 4-lobed, tubular, almost as long as surrounding calyx. Corolla tube 2-3 mm, glabrous, the lobes 1.5-2.5 mm lanceolate to ovate, acute or acuminate, glabrous. Stamens 4, exserted, conspicuous, 3-5 mm long, the anthers yellowish. The fruit, 3-4 mm long, is a capsule opening with an operculum, containing 1-2 smooth, boat-shaped, mucilaginous. This species has a well-developed taproot (Lamp and Collet, 1979; Stace, 1997).
Plant TypeTop of page Herbaceous
DistributionTop of page This remarkably widespread species is apparently native to Europe, North Africa and West and South Asia (USDA-ARS, 2003) but has been introduced extremely widely elsewhere and now occurs e.g. in every continental state of USA as well as in Hawaii, in Australia and New Zealand, 'throughout Japan' (Morita, 2002) and in many countries of Africa, where it thrives at high altitude.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page Although not a federally listed noxious weed in USA, P. lanceolata is listed and regulated by many individual states (USDA-ARS, 2003).
HabitatTop of page P. lanceolata is a plant of grasslands and wastelands with neutral or basic soils (Clapham et al., 1989). It is found in a wider range of grassland microclimates and soil types than some close relatives (such as P. major and P. media), but is not found in the hottest and driest grasslands (Stoutjesdijk, 1992). In general, it is restricted to comparatively open vegetation where there is plenty of light at ground level (Aart et al., 1992).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page This species is quick to colonize, establish and spread in disturbed agricultural areas. Its small size and low vigour, however, mean that it is seldom reported as a principal weed for a particular crop (Holm et al., 1977). It has been reported as a weed of lucerne in Iran (Mirkamaly and Maddah, 1973) and of citrus and mango in Mauritius (McIntyre and Barbe, 1994).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page Genetics
P. lancelolata has a chromosome number of 2n=12 (Stace, 1997). The high level of genetic mixing, low polymorphism and lack of population genetic structure in this species are thought to result from its exclusive out-crossing strategy (Sharma and Koul, 1995).
Physiology and Phenology
Evidence suggests that there is little dormancy in this species, and virtually all seeds germinate within the first year (Roberts and Boddrell, 1984; Pons, 1992). However, germination rate seems to increase with storage over 6 months (Sousa et al., 1998). Unlike some close relatives, such as P. major, seed of this species does not require light for germination (Pons and Toorn, 1988; Blom, 1992) although the effect of light intensity on germination rate seems unclear (Roberts and Boddrell, 1984; Sousa et al., 1998). Optimum germination has been obtained at 21% soil moisture (Blom, 1992).
Reproduction is via seed in this species. P. lanceolata is an obligate out-breeder and its flowers are self-incompatible (Sagar and Harper, 1964; Sharma et al., 1992; Sharma and Koul, 1995). The species is considered mainly anemophilous (wind-pollinated) (Sagar and Harper, 1964), but there is evidence to suggest biotic pollination by syrphid flies (Stelleman, 1982) and bees (Apis dorsata and Apis florea) (Sharma et al., 1993). Gynodioecy is observed in P. lanceolata, i.e. populations contain both hermaphrodites and sterile males (Poot et al., 1997).
P. lanceolata is so widely distributed that it is probably not restricted by climate (Holm et al., 1977). Suitable climates include those with winter rainfall (temperate), all-year rainfall (temperate), summer rainfall (temperate), summer rainfall (sub-tropical) (Wells et al., 1986). The deep taproot enables this species to withstand periods of drought. It is seldom reported to be an important weed in the tropics because more vigorous plants keep its growth in check. In open areas, plants will overwinter below ground and, if frosted, they can re-grow from underground storage organs. The chemical and physical characteristics of the soils in which Plantago species grow have been described by Troelstra (1992). Sagar and Harper (1964) note that P. lanceolata is found on a wide variety of soil types in the British Isles and occurs on sand-dunes, and spray-washed cliffs, but is absent from acidic uplands. It is mainly a species of basic and neutral grasslands.
Sagar and Harper (1964) provide detailed lists of plants associated with P. lanceolata in the British Isles.
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Trichosirocalus troglodytes||Herbivore||Growing point|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page Sagar and Harper (1964) provide a long list of natural enemies including invertebrates, fungi and viruses but imply that these have much less influence than livestock management.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
P. lanceolata produces a large number of small seeds which can be dispersed by the wind.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Seeds are mucilaginous and easily transported on animal fur or by man (Soekarjo, 1992). Sagar and Harper (1964) note that seeds retain over 50% viability after passing through cattle.
Because of the small size of its seeds, P. lanceolata may be introduced as a contaminant of agricultural produce.
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||seeds|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||seeds|
|Seedlings/Micropropagated plants||whole plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||seeds|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page P. lanceolata has been described as an agricultural, pastoral and environmental weed competing with other plants for light, water and nutrients and replacing preferred vegetation. P. lanceolata and P. major have together been reported as weeds in over 50 countries affecting a wide range of crops (Holm et al., 1977). Holm et al. (1979) record P. lanceolata as a serious weed in Italy, and a principal weed in Canada, Ecuador, Iran, Mauritius and New Zealand.
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page P. lanceolata forms dense swards that crowd out native vegetation and prevent the establishment of native species (Weber, 2003).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Speyeria callippe callippe (callippe silverspot butterfly)||USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species||California||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009|
|Trifolium dichotomum (showy Indian clover)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species||Competition - smothering||US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008|
Social ImpactTop of page Pollen of this species can cause allergies and respiratory problems (Lamp and Collet, 1979; Mehta and Wheeler, 1991).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - smothering
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
UsesTop of page P. lanceolata has been used for sward improvement (Stewart, 1996; Trzaskos, 1996; Kozlowski et al., 1997). The commercial cultivars 'Grasslands Lancelot' (Rumball et al., 1997) and 'Ceres Tonic' (Pyne Gould Guinness Ltd, 1996) have been developed in New Zealand for forage yield and suitability for livestock grazing. Sagar and Harper (1964) note that P. lanceolata is one of the most palatable species for sheep.
It also has value as a tough amenity turf component (Odermatt et al., 1998) and has been utilized as permanent ground cover in vineyards (Crozier, 1998).
Medicinal uses include the treatment of respiratory and inflammatory skin diseases (Marchesan et al., 1998; Paper and Marchesan, 1999).
Uses ListTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page P. lanceolata can be distinguished from P. major by its furrowed scape, lanceolate leaves, one- to two-seeded capsule which splits around the middle and the smooth, boat-shaped seeds with a scar around the middle (Holm et al., 1977).
Prevention and ControlTop of page Mechanical Control
Grazing or mowing may reduce growth of P. lanceolata (Weber, 2003). This species is traditionally hand weeded in mango and citrus orchards in Mauritius (McIntyre and Barbe, 1994).
Around young trees and shrubs: glyphosate applied twice a year controlled P. lanceolata over several years (Frank and Simon, 1981). Alternate treatments of glyphosate and a mixture of diuron + paraquat were also satisfactory (McIntyre and Barbe, 1994).
In arable crops: butralin + linuron was found to be particularly effective (Fererro, 1978) and mecoprop has been recommended to control field margin weeds (including Plantago lanceolata; Birnie, 1984).
In turf: 2,4-D used alone and bromoxynil and mecoprop together were effective (Wehner et al., 1981). Bingham et al. (1986) reported that P. lanceolata was controlled better with a mecoprop than a dichlorprop mixture.
McIntyre and Barbe (1994) observed acceptable control in young mango and citrus orchards in Mauritius with combined chemical and traditional hand weeding.
ReferencesTop of page
Clapham AR, Tutin TG, Moore DM, 1989. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Conticello L, Gandullo R, 1991. Survey of summer weeds in the upper valley of Rio Negro y Neuquen. Proceedings of the 12th Argentine meeting on weeds and their control, Mar del Plata, Argentina, 9-11 October 1991., Vol. 1:19-26; 22 ref.
Crozier P, 1998. Permanent ground cover and mulch: agricultural aspects. Phytoma, No. 511:42-45.
Ferguson CM, Fraser WJ, 1993. Eurythecta zelaea, an occasional dryland pasture pest. Proceedings of the Forty Sixth New Zealand Plant Protection Conference, Christchurch, New Zealand, 10-12 August 1993 Rotorua, New Zealand; New Zealand Plant Protection Society, 242-244
Ferrero A, 1978. Selective weed control in maize. Rapporti sull'attivita svolta nell'ambito del subprogetto "Fitoiatria del frumento del mais e del sorgo" Progetto finalizzato fitofarmaci e fitoregolatori, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche; coordinatore V. Piglionica, Rome, 1978., 309-316
Grierson AJC, Long DG, 2001. Flora of Bhutan including a record of plants from Sikkim and Darjeeling. Volume 2 Part 3. Edinburgh, UK: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and Royal Government of Bhutan.
Grzegorczyk S, Alberski J, 1999. The presence of forbs in meadow-pasture plant communities of the Olsztyn Lakeland. Folia Universitatis Agriculturae Stetinensis, Agricultura, No. 75:103-106.
Holm L, Pancho JV, Herberger JP, Plucknett DL, 1979. A Geographical Atlas of World Weeds. Toronto, Canada: John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Iraola Calvo VM, Moraza ML, Biurrun R, 1999. Spider mites (Acari: Tetranychidae Berlese) and phytoseiid mites (Acari: Phytoseiidae Berlese) in pear orchards and ground cover vegetation in Navarra. Boleti^acute~n de Sanidad Vegetal, Plagas, 25(1):49-58; 27 ref.
Kozlowski S, Golinski P, Swedrzynska D, Kolpak M, 1997. Plantago lanceolata - a commendable sward component of grasslands? Management for Grassland Biodiversity. Proceedings of the International Occasional Symposium of the European Grassland Federation, Warszawa-Lomza, Poland, 19-23 May, 1997. Grassland Science in Europe Vol. 2. Poznan, Poland: Organizing Committee of the International Occasional Symposium of the European Grassland Federation, 227-231.
Lamp C, Collet F, 1979. A field guide to weeds in Australia, revised edition. Melbourne, Australia: Inkata Press.
Lopez Tellez A, Reyes SA, 1999. Flora de Veracruz: Plantaginaceae, No. 108:1-20. Xalapa, Mexico: Instituto de Ecologia.
Marchesan M, Paper DH, Hose S, Franz G, 1998. Investigation of the antiinflammatory activity of liquid extracts of Plantago lanceolata L. Phytother. Res., 12:33-34.
McIntyre G, Barbe C, 1994. Chemical v/s hand weeding in young citrus and mango orchards. Revue Agricole et Sucriere de l'Ile Maurice, 73:44-47.
Mehta V, Wheeler AW, 1991. IgE-mediated sensitization to English plantain pollen in seasonal respiratory allergy: identification and partial characterisation of its allergenic components. International Archives of Allergy and Applied Immunology, 96(3):211-217
Mirkamaly H, Maddah MV, 1973. Weeds of alfalfa fields in Arak area. Iranian Journal of Plant Pathology, 9(2):23-24.
Morita H, 2002. Handbook of Arable Weeds of Japan. Tokyo, Japan: Kumiai Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.
Odermatt S, Thomet E, Thomet P, 1998. NARA - development of a low-input turf with low growing ecotypes. In: Boller B, Stadelmann FJ, eds. Breeding for a Multifunctional Agriculture. Proceedings of the 21st meeting of the Fodder Crops and Amenity Grasses Section of EUCARPIA, KartauseIttingen, Switzerland, 9-12 September, 1997. Zurich, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, 115-117.
Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.
Paper DH, Marchesan M, 1999. Plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.): its introduction, analysis, constituents, pharmacology and standardization. Zeitschrift fur Phytotherapie, 20(4):231-238.
Pons TL, 1992. Seed germination of Plantago major ssp. major and Plantago lanceolata. Plantago: a multidisciplinary study [edited by Kuiper, P. J. C.; Bos, M.] Berlin, Germany; Springer-Verlag, 161-169
Poot P, Broek T van den, Damme JMM van, Lambers H, 1997. A comparison of the vegetative growth of male-sterile and hermaphroditic lines of Plantago lanceolata in relation to N supply. New Phytologist, 135(3):429-437.
Ramirez GC, San Martin PC, Sempe CJ, 1989. Seasonal changes in plant size, biomass and phenology in an anthropogenic prairie in southern central Chile. Agro Sur, 17(1):19-28.
Sagar GR, Harper JL, 1964. Biological Flora of the British Isles. Plantago major L., P. media L. and P. lanceolata L. Journal of Ecology, 52: 189-221.
Sharma N, Koul AK, 1995. Reproductive strategies in weeds - Plantago major, P. lanceolata and their cultivated ally P. ovata. Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy. Part B, Biological Sciences, 61(6):471-478; 20 ref.
Sharma N, Koul P, Koul AK, 1993. Pollination biology of some species of genus Plantago L. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 111(2):129-138.
Sousa ME, Caixinhas ML, Maillet J, 1998. Seed germination of weeds from grasslands of Portugal. Comptes Rendus 6eme symposium Mediterraneen EWRS, Montpellier, France, 13-15 Mai, 1998. Montpellier, France: ENSA, 236-237.
Stace C, 1997. New Flora of the British Isles. 2nd edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Stelleman P, 1982. The significance of biotic pollination in Plantago lanceolata. Netherlands: Academisch Proefschrift, University of Amsterdam, 175.
Stewart AV, 1996. Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) - a potential pasture species. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association, 58:77-86.
Suckling DM, Burnip GM, Walker JTS, Shaw PW, McLaren GF, Howard CR, Lo P, White V, Fraser J, 1998. Abundance of leafrollers and their parasitoids on selected host plants in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 26(3):193-203; 28 ref.
Taylor RJ, 1978. Industrial impact in northwestern Whatcom County, Washington. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 10(2):99-213.
Troelstra SR, 1992. Chemical and physical characteristics of the soil of Plantago sites. Plantago: a multidisciplinary study [edited by Kuiper, P. J. C.; Bos, M.] Berlin, Germany; Springer-Verlag, 29-48
USDA-ARS, 2003. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx
USDA-NRCS, 2003. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, USA. http://plants.usda.gov.
Verdcourt B, 1971. Plantaginaceae. In: Milne-Redhead E, Polhill RM, eds. Flora of Tropical East Africa. London, UK: Crown Agents.
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Wells MJ, Balsinhas AA, Joffe H, Engelbrecht, VM, Harding G, Stirton CH, 1986. A catalogue of problem plants in southern Africa incorporating the national weed list of South Africa. Memoirs, Botanical Survey of South Africa, No. 53:658 pp.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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