Weed Seed: Plantago lanceolata (Ribgrass)



Common Name



Secondary Noxious, Class 3 in the Canadian Weed Seeds Order, 2016 under the Seeds Act.


Canadian: Occurs in BC, MB, NB, NF, NS, ON, QC and PE (Brouillet et al. 2016Footnote 1)

Worldwide: Native to northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia and south tropical Asia (USDA-ARS 2016Footnote 2). Naturalized in eastern Asia, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North America and South America (USDA-ARS 2016Footnote 2, CABI 2016Footnote 3). Widespread in the United States (USDA-NRCS 2016Footnote 4).

Duration of life cycle


Seed or fruit type


Identification features


  • Seed length: 2.0 - 3.3 mm
  • Seed width: 1.3 - 1.5 mm
  • Seed thickness: 1.0 - 1.3 mm


  • Seed elongate oval in outline, compressed, furrowed on ventral side

Surface Texture

  • Smooth seed, with slight wrinkling, most are glossy


  • Dark reddish-brown seed

Other Features

  • Hilum is in the middle of a deep furrow on one side of the seed; dark tissue may remain attached to the hilum
  • A low ridge is in the middle of the furrow
  • Other side has a lighter central stripe that follows the furrow

Habitat and Crop Association

Clover fields, dry grasslands, old pastures, hayfields, old fields, forest openings, lawns, railway embankments, roadsides and disturbed areas, especially open dry areas (Cavers et al. 1980Footnote 5, Darbyshire 2003Footnote 6).

General Information

The first report of ribgrass in North America dates from 1829 in Nova Scotia (Cavers et al. 1980Footnote 5). In New Zealand, cultivars have been developed for forage yield and suitability for livestock grazing (CABI, 2016Footnote 3). Pollens are common allergens (Frankton and Mulligan 1993Footnote 7).

Similar species

Psyllium (Plantago arenaria Waldst. & Kit.)

  • Psyllium seeds are similar to those of ribgrass in size, reddish-brown colour, glossy surface, central furrow on the hilum side, and lighter central stripe on the other side.
  • Psyllium seeds are a darker colour, lack the low ridge and dark tissue associated with the furrow, and the pale stripe is less prominent compared to ribgrass seeds.


Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seeds
Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, hilum view
Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, outer side
Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, side view
Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seeds, outer side (L) and hilum view (R)
Ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) seed, cross-section

Similar species

Similar species: Psyllium (Plantago psyllium) seeds
Similar species: Psyllium (Plantago psyllium) seed
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