Fact Sheets


Plantago lanceolata L.

Family :

Famille :


Synonym(s) :

Synonyme(s) :

Plantago lanceolata var. angustifolia de Candolle             (FNA 1993+, Tropicos 2022)
Plantago lanceolata var. sphaerostachya Mert. & W. D. J. Koch (FNA 1993+, Tropicos 2022)
Plantago sinuate Lam. (Tropicos 2022)

Common Name(s) :

Nom(s) commun(s) :


(English) (GC 2016; CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2022)
Plantain lancéolé (French) (GC 2016)
Narrow-leaved plantain (English)                                (CABI 2022; Tropicos 2022)
Ribwort plantain (English)                                            (CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2022)
Chang ye che qian (Chinese)                                        (Tropicos 2022; USDA-ARS 2022)
Llantén menor (Spanish) (CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2022)
Tanchagem menor (Portuguese) (CABI 2022)

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seeds

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seeds

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed; hilum view

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, outer side

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, side view

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seeds, outer side (L) and hilum view (R)

  • Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, cross-section

Explore More :

Explore plus :



Regulation :

Remarques Réglementation:

  • CFIA Weed Seeds Order - Class 3: Secondary Noxious Weed Seeds
  • USA Federal Noxious Weed Seed List

Regulation Notes:

Distribution :

Répartition :

Native to northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia and south tropical Asia (USDA-ARS 2022). Naturalized in eastern Asia, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North America and South America (CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2022). Widespread in the United States (USDA-NRCS 2022). Occurs in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island (Brouillet et al. 2010+).

Habitat and Crop Association :

Habitat et Cultures Associées :

This species is found in old pastures, hayfields, old fields, forest openings, lawns, railway embankments, roadsides and disturbed areas, especially open dry areas (Cavers et al. 1980; Darbyshire 2003). It is often found in Trifolium spp. (clover) fields, especially T. pratense (red clover) (Cavers et al. 1980).

Economic Use, cultivation area, and Weed Association :

Utilisation économique, zone de culture et association de mauvaises herbes :

Duration of Life Cycle :

Durée du cycle vital:


Dispersal Unit Type :

Type d’unité de dispersion :


General Information


P. lanceolata has been associated with European prehistoric people, and moved with them as they migrated (Cavers et al. 1980). It is believed to have come to North America as a crop contaminant, especially in Trifolium species (Cavers et al. 1980). The first report of Plantago lanceolata in North America dates from 1829 in Nova Scotia (Cavers et al. 1980). In New Zealand, cultivars have been developed for forage yield and suitability for livestock grazing (CABI 2022).

P. lanceolata plants have been estimated to produce up to 10,000 seeds without competition, and 60-120 seeds per plant in grasslands (Cavers et al. 1980). The seeds produce mucilage when wetted, and may primarily disperse by sticking to animal fur, bird feathers or machinery (Cavers et al. 1980; CABI 2022). Seeds were found to remain viable when passing through the digestive tracts of animals and birds, and some had enhanced germination (Cavers et al. 1980). Viability of seeds tended to decrease rapidly in a year, but remained viable longer when buried deeply (Cavers et al. 1980).


Plantago lanceolata infestation (Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org)



  • Capsule


    • Capsule length: 3- 4 mm (Cavers et al. 1980; Holm et al. 1991)


    • Capsule is oval shaped, inflated in cross section (Cavers et al. 1980)

    Surface Texture

    • Capsule surface is smooth


    • Capsule is shiny brown coloured

    Other Features

    • Opens along a transverse line near the middle of the capsule (Cavers et al. 1980)
    • Capsule contains 1-2 seeds (Cavers et al. 1980)
  • Seed


    • Seed length*: 1.9 – 3.1 mm; width: 0.9 – 1.4 mm
    *Note: minimum and maximum of 10 seeds in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)


    • Seed oblong or occasionally oval, plano-convex in 3 dimensions
    • A deep and wide groove is in the centre of the flat side of the seed

    Surface Texture

    • Seed appears smooth textured, slightly wrinkled under magnification of at least 40x
    • A longitudinal ridge of tissue is in the centre of the groove


    • Shiny or glossy translucent brown, dark brown or reddish-brown seed
    • Dark-brown coloured tissue generally associated with the hilum
    • A light brown, longitudinal stripe is in the centre of the curved side of the seed

    Other Features

    Hilum and hilum area

    • The round hilum is in the middle of the deep groove
  • Embryo


    • Embryo partially fills the seed


    • Embryo is spatulate shaped in an axial position (Martin 1946)


    • Endosperm is hard and translucent brown coloured

Identification Tips


Members of the Plantago genus in the Plantaginaceae have plano-convex shaped seeds, with a round hilum generally in the middle of the flat side of the seed. The seeds of many species have a central groove on the flat side, species such as P. major and P. rugelii do not have a groove. P. lanceolata seeds, along with many other species, have oval shaped seeds with a translucent colour. This species differs from other oval-shaped seeds by the combination of a glossy brownish colour, no transverse groove around the middle, same size at both ends, and a light brown stripe on the curved side.

Additional Botany Information



  • Flowers are collected into an oval shaped or cylindrical flower head 100-450 mm long (Cavers et al. 1980; FNA 1993+)
  • Stalk of inflorescence is up to 45 cm long (Cavers et al. 1980)
  • P. lanceolata flowers can produce a large amount of pollen that can aggravate allergies (Cavers et al. 1980).

Vegetative Features

  • Plants have a short stem, with basal leaves 3-40 cm long (Cavers et al. 1980)
  • Leaves are long oval or oblong shaped, generally long-hairy, with smooth or toothed edges (Cavers et al. 1980; FNA 1993+)

Similar Species


Similar species are based on a study of seed morphology of various species, and those with similar dispersal units are identified. The study is limited by physical specimen and literature availability at the time of examination, and possibly impacted by the subjectivity of the authors based on their knowledge and experience. Providing similar species information for seed identification is to make users aware of similarities that could possibly result in misidentification.

Plantago arenaria Waldst. & Kit.

P. arenaria grows worldwide, native to Europe and Asia, and naturalized in North America (FNA 1993+; USDA-ARS 2022). The seeds are a similar size as P. lanceolata (length*: 2.1 – 3.2 mm; width: 0.9 – 1.3 mm) are a darker brownish colour, lack the ridge of tissue in the longitudinal groove and on the hilum, and the light brown stripe on the curved side is not as visible as on P. lanceolata seeds.

*Note: minimum and maximum of 10 seeds in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)

Click to select species

Cliquez pour sélectionner les espèces

Comparison Window

Fenêtre de comparaison

Need ID Help?

Besoin d’aide pour l’identification?



Brouillet, L., Coursol, F., Meades, S. J., Favreau, M., Anions, M., Bélisle, P. and Desmet, P. 2010+. VASCAN, the database of vascular plants of Canada. http://data.canadensys.net/vascan/ Accessed March 10, 2022.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI). 2022. Invasive Species Compendium, CAB International, Wallingford, UK. https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/journal/cabicompendium Accessed March 10, 2022.

Cavers, P. B., Bassett, I. J. and Crompton, C. W. 1980. The biology of Canadian weeds. 47. Plantago lanceolata L. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 60: 1269-1282.

Darbyshire, S. J. 2003. Inventory of Canadian Agricultural Weeds. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch. Ottawa, ON.

Flora of North America (FNA) Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico [Online]. 22+ vols. New York and Oxford. http://beta.floranorthamerica.org. Accessed December 29, 2022.

Government of Canada (GC). 2016. Canadian Weed Seeds Order. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-93/page-2.html (English) https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/fra/reglements/DORS-2016-93/page-2.html (French)

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat. 2022. https://doi.org/10.15468/39omei Accessed via https://www.gbif.org/species/8208358 Accessed December 29, 2022.

Holm, L.G., Plucknett, D.L., Pancho, J.V. and Herberger, J.P. 1991. The World’s Worst Weeds: Distribution and Biology. Krieger Publishing Company, Florida. 609 pp.

International Seed Morphology Association (ISMA). 2020. Method for Seed Size Measurement. Version 1.0. ISMA Publication Guide. https://www.idseed.org/authors/details/method_for_seed_size_measurement.html

Martin, A.C. 1946. The comparative internal morphology of seeds. The American Midland Naturalist 36: 513-660.

Tropicos.org. 2022. Missouri Botanical Garden. https://tropicos.org Accessed March 11, 2022.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS). 2022. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx Accessed March 10, 2022.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). 2022. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC USA. http://plants.usda.gov Accessed June 28, 2022.



Jennifer Neudorf, Angela Salzl, Ruojing Wang, Karen Castro, Katrina Entwistle
Canadian Food Inspection Agency