Ribwort plantain Greater Plantain hoary plantain
Plantain (Plantago) Greater Plantain ( P. Major )
Ribwort Plantain (P. lanceolata) Hoary Plantain ( P.media).
Hullo, Snailey-O ! How’s the world with you?Put your little horns out;
Tell me how you do? There’s rain, and dust, and sunshine, Where carts go creaking by;
You like it wet, Snailey; I like it dry!
Hey ho, Snailey-O, I’ll whistle you a tune! I’m merry in September, As e’er I am in June.
By any stony roadside Wherever you may roam, All the summer through, Snailey, Plantain’s at home!
Cicely Mary Barker 1925
The four common species of Plantain are listed above. The greater has the broadest leaves followed by the hoary plantain which leaves are nearly as broad but are hairy where the greater is not. Ribwort Plantain has longer narrow leaves which are often downy. There are also two seaside species called buckshorn plantain (P.coronopus) and sea plantain ( P.maritima).
Plantain species treat piles and diarrhoea whilst the ribwort species is especially recommended to treat asthma and bronchitis. The leaves can be dried and taken as a tea for the above treatments. Fresh leaves are ideal to check bleeding of wounds and soothe burns and sores as well as insect bites. The leaves can also be dried to make an ointment which is also effective for wounds, burns and insect bites.
The greater plantain has the largest and most abundant flower spike of the plantain species. One may use the seed to make bannock and add to soups as an alternative to linseeds with mucilaginous and laxative properties. Birds also enjoy the seed given rise to local names such as bird’s meat and canary flower.
Five thousand years ago evidence suggests that early farmers cleared a lot of land for farming practice. One such evidence is the increase in plants such as the plantain which will grow in cleared compact ground and withstand heavy grazing. This is possibly why the plant is called Plantago from the root word Planta meaning sole of foot. A further reference is made to this theory by the Native Americans calling this plant white man’s footprint.
Hoary plantain is the only species which is insect pollinated using its delicate scent to attract bees.
This plant I have associated with the oak which also has benefited from human interference and has similar herbal properties.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.