English Plantain
Plantago lanceolataPlantaginaceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerLeaf
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Buckhorn plantain, Narrowleaf plantain, Rib-grass, Ribwort, Black-jacks

The Plant:

  • An herbaceous perennial, 9-24 inches tall. Clump forming plants that grow from a basal rosette of leaves.

The Leaves:

  • long, basal
  • lance shaped
  • erect
  • entire
  • hairy
  • slender, tapering
  • 3-5 ribbed

The Stem:

  • flower stalks slender
  • ridged
  • long or held high

The Flowers:

  • White, four-petaled flowers that grow on dense spikes in tight clusters of numerous small, tapering, flowers. Bushy flowers held by a long, slender, grooved stalk. Blooms from April to November.

The Fruits:

  • 2-seeded tan to brown capsules
  • seeds brown, shiny, indented, sticky when wet

The Habitat:

  • waste places, roadsides, sidewalks
  • dry sandy soil


  • seeds become sticky when wet, and cling to passing animals or humans
  • basal rosettes of leaves may form adjacent to parent plant

Key ID Features:

  • basal
  • hairy
  • 3-5 ribbed
  • spikes white
  • held on long, slender, grooved stalk

Similar Species:

  • Resembles Seaside Plantain (P. juncoides) which has 1-veined leaves, longer flower head and held on a shorter stalk. The flower stalk also resembles Common Plantain which has broad short leaves.
  • Bracted plantain (P. aristata) also resembles English plantain, but has narrower, hairier leaves that lack deep ribs, and hairy bracts on the flower spikes.


  • This species can displace native vegetation in disturbed areas.
  • On Nantucket, while this species is sometimes seen in minimally managed habitats, dense populations are restricted to disturbed sites. Typically a roadside weed.

Growth Form: Herb

Origin: Europe

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Do not list at this time

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Not evaluated

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: no

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston