Plantago lanceolata is a species of flowering plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae. It is known by the common names ribwort plantain, narrowleaf plantain, English plantain , ribleaf and lamb's tongue . It is a common weed of cultivated land.
The plant is a rosette-forming perennial herb, with leafless, silky, hairy flower stems (10–40 cm or 3.9–15.7 in). The basal leaves are lanceolate spreading or erect, scarcely toothed with 3-5 strong parallel veins narrowed to a short petiole. The flower stalk is deeply furrowed, ending in an ovoid inflorescence of many small flowers each with a pointed bract. :248 Each flower can produce up to two seeds. Flowers 4 millimetres (0.16 in) (calyx green, corolla brownish), 4 bent back lobes with brown midribs and long white stamens. It is native to temperate Eurasia, widespread throughout the British Isles, but scarce on the most acidic soils (pH < 4.5). It is present and widespread in the Americas and Australia as an introduced species.
Plantago lanceolata is native to Eurasia, but has been introduced to North America and many other parts of the world with suitable habitats.
Considered to be an indicator of agriculture in pollen diagrams, P. lanceolata has been found in western Norway from the Early Neolithic onwards, something considered an indicator of grazing in that area.
Plantago lanceolata is used frequently in herbal teas and other herbal remedies. A tea from the leaves is used as a highly effective cough medicine. In the traditional Austrian medicine Plantago lanceolata leaves have been used internally (as syrup or tea) or externally (fresh leaves) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, insect bites, and infections.
Plantago lanceolata contains phenylethanoids such as acteoside (verbascoside), cistanoside F, lavandulifolioside, plantamajoside and isoacteoside. It also contains the iridoid glycosides aucubin and catalpol.
Plantago lanceolata, can live anywhere from very dry meadows to places similar to a rain forest.
The mode of reproduction can vary among populations of P. lanceolata. Reproduction can either occur asexually via cloning or sexually, with the pollen being wind dispersed. In the populations that reproduce asexually via cloning, genetic variation is much lower than the populations that reproduce sexually.
P. lanceolata is host to many different species of the order Lepidoptera. Species such as Junonia coenia, Spilosoma congrua, and Melitaea cinxia lay their eggs on P. lanceolata plants so they can serve as a food source for the larvae when they hatch.
Infection by powdery mildew
Podosphaera plantaginis is a powdery mildew fungus that infects P. lanceolata. All of the P. lanceolata populations are infected by several strains of this powdery mildew fungus. Once the populations are infected, the symptoms are minimal at first. Then, after a few months lesions start to appear covering the entire surface of the leaves and the stem, making it very noticeable.
Resistance to powdery mildew
After the populations are infected, they react in different ways. Some populations of P. lanceolata are more susceptible to different strains of powdery mildew. Also, some populations have multiple resistance phenotypes where on the other hand, others may only have one resistance phenotype. Overall, the populations that have the highest variety of resistance phenotypes will have the highest survival rates particularly when rates of infection are high.
In Popular Culture
In the UK and Ireland the plant is used by children to play various simple games. In Edinburgh, Scotland this game is called ‘The 1 o’clock gun’ after the gun that fires everyday from Edinburgh Castle. Writer Sean Michael Wilson notes that: "When I was a kid in Edinburgh we used it for a cute wee game called ‘The 1 o’clock gun’ - we twisted the stalk around into a kind of noose, quickly pulled it (with the left hand pulling back sharply and the right hand moving forward) and then the head of the stalk would go shooting off. Piitttt!! We used to see how far we could get it to go - great fun." In the West Country of England the same game is called 'cannonballs'. Another game played with the plant in Scotland and Ireland and possibly also in England is called 'Bishops'. This game is a bit like conkers, in which a child tries to knock off the head of their friend's stalk with their own stalk, via a fast downward thrust. The origin of these games is unknown but thought to date back hundreds of years.
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