Meadowmat wildflower species: Ribwort plantain
Ribwort plantain (plantago lanceolata) is a perennial plant and a native species in Europe; it is a common sight across the UK countryside, in arable fields and grasslands. It is a hardy plant and can grow in most types of soil and in dry areas, for example on embankments and roadsides. Ribwort plantain contains nutrients and vitamins such as calcium and potassium, and is a common part of a sheep’s diet.
Ribwort plantain has dark green, ribbed leaves and spiky flower heads, usually a greenish-white colour. Flowering begins in April and lasts until the first frost of winter. Like many wildflowers, ribwort plantain is named by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as 'Perfect for Pollinators' - its rich nectar attracts butterflies, bumble bees, and other insects, so it helps to support the eco-system and promote bio diversity. Ribwort plantain attracts moths and hoverflies and also provides birds with a source of food in wintertime.
Growing and harvesting ribwort plantain
Plants may flower in the first year but sometimes rosettes have to reach a minimum size before flowering can start. Sow in springtime and, once the seeds are large enough, pop them out of the pod and sprinkle into soil in the summer. After the first year, ribwort plantain self-germinates. The stalks have flowers which will each become a seedpod with up to 20 seeds. On a mature plant, when the pod splits it spreads the seeds and the growing season begins again.
As an alternative to growing ribwort plantain, you can keep things ultra simple and invest in Meadowmat, a pre-grown wildflower meadow that's as easy to lay as lawn turf. Meadowmat and organisations such as the RHS can provide further advice and tips about which wildflowers to plant, how to plant them and their benefits.
Traditional uses for ribwort plantain
Ribwort plantain may not be the prettiest plant in the flora world but it has many uses. It attracts wildlife, is used for grazing by sheep and rabbits, and attracts pollinators and other insects. It also has medicinal properties. It is antibacterial and an astringent and has historically been used to stem bleeding. These days it is used by herbalists to treat various ailments and injuries, including sores, wounds, urinary infections, catarrh and sinusitis. Ribwort plantain is also used as a tea to treat eczema and other skin disorders.