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Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

Description and recommendations

Common names

Ribwort plantain, buckhorn, buckhorn plantain, English plantain, llantén menor, petit plantain, ribgrass, tanchagem menor, athan el-kabsh, corrijo, lance-leaved plantain, narrow-leaf plantain (USDA, 2009; Ecoport, 2009).

Related feed(s)


Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.) is a stemless herbaceous perennial plant, 20 to 80 cm high. It has a thick rhizome and fibrous roots. Leaves are arranged in dense rosette. Petioles are as long as leaves (10-20 cm long). Leaves are lanceolate, 1 to 3 cm broad and glabrous or sparsely pubescent (more hairy in dry habitats). Inflorescence is a short spike, densely flowered with white flowers. Fruit is a capsule, 3-5 mm long, 1-3 seeded. Seeds are yellow brown to dark brown or black, oblong, 2-3 mm long and mucilaginous when wet (Gurib-Fakim, 2006). The mass of 1000 seeds is 1-1.5 g (Ecoport, 2009).

Its mucilaginous seeds are used as a thickener in cosmetics and ice-cream industry and as gelling agent for tissue culture (cheaper than agar-agar). It may be grown as fodder and is considered to be of better quality than Plantago major. Forage yield of special cultivars in New Zealand may reach 20 t/ha (Gurib-Fakim, 2006).


Ribwort plantain originated from Europe and Central Asia. It is now cosmopolitan and naturalized in tropical and southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, West Indies, Mascarenes and Madagascar. In the USA, it is referred as a noxious weed in 28 states (USDA, 2009).

It grows in disturbed areas, roadsides, open woodlands and grasslands. It is tolerant of drought but do not withstand saline soils. In pasture stands, it responds well to fertilizer but will not benefit as well if mixed with other plants (Gurib-Fakim, 2006). It will not withstand heavy grazing and may disappear from the sward (Mosquera et al., 1999).

Nutritional attributes

Ribwort plantain has good nutritive value with high vitamin and mineral content (Cu, Ca, Se) (Kostuch et al., 1997; Kozowski et al., 1996; Wilman et al., 1997; Moorhead et al., 2002; Bilbao et al., 2007). It is known to contain compounds such as anti-oxidatives and anti-inflammatories (Al-Mamun et al., 2007).

Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value



Ribwort plantain is palatable to cattle (Kozowski et al., 1999) and is recommended in pastures including grasses and legumes as it may improve Cu content (Bilbao et al., 2007). However, it is less consumed than a large variety of grasses or legumes such as prairie grass, kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum), alfafa or white clover (Horadagoda et al., 2009).

In calves, ribwort plantain reduced egg output of gastrointestinal parasites and allowed a slight live weight increase (Sievers et al., 2006).


In sheep grazing swards of white clover, ribwort plantain was fairly appreciated (Clark et al., 1985). It proved to be suitable in combination with grass in swards to sustain finishing lambs growth (Moorhead et al., 2002). It may also be recommended as an alternative to hay (Al-Mamun et al., 2007). However, it gave poorer results than chicory (Cichorium intybus) on live weight gain, hot carcass weight (Fraser et al., 1996; Deaker et al., 1994). It had lower effect than chicory in reducing lambs parasites (Knight et al., 1996).


Ribwort plantain could be fed to weaned piglets as it is a source of fibre. It could be included up to 8% DM dietary level without deleterious effect on pig performances (Lindberg et al., 2006).

There have been attempts to use ribwort plantain in mixtures of herbs acting as growth promotors in pigs in order to replace antibiotics or probiotics, but the results were not very consistent (Grela et al., 2007; Dedkova et al., 2006; Grela et al., 2001; Grela, 2000).


Heuzé V., Tran G., 2011. Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata). A programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. Last updated on April 21, 2011, 14:05


Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 15.7       1  
Crude protein % DM 20.4 7.0 12.2 30.0 8  
Crude fibre % DM 13.6 2.4 11.4 16.1 3  
NDF % DM 41.1 5.4 35.8 48.1 5  
ADF % DM 29.3 5.5 20.4 34.8 5  
Lignin % DM 13.8       1  
Ether extract % DM 2.4 0.9 1.6 3.8 5  
Ash % DM 12.4 1.8 10.7 14.7 4  
Water-soluble carbohydrates % DM 7.2 6.4 3.5 14.6 3  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.5         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 18.2 4.4 15.3 24.6 4  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.8 1.1 1.7 4.3 4  
Potassium g/kg DM 29.7       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 17       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
a (N) % 20.0       1  
b (N) % 52.0       1  
c (N) h-1 0.040       1  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 46         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 41         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Bilbao et al., 2007; Clapham et al., 2005; Dougall et al., 1958; Fulkerson et al., 2008; Gomez Cabrera, 2009; Vargas et al., 1965

Last updated on 02/05/2013 17:27:58



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Image credits

Image credits

Picture title Credits License
Plantain Gilles Tran, AFZ CC BY 3.0