Two Grassland Herbs That Are Beneficial to Man.

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

There are several grasslandherbs that are beneficial to man. here I would like to write about two of the commoner ones. First the ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata. in the U.K. this is the commonest of all grassland species and its lance shaped foliage may found throughout most of the year. Indeed it is this lance-shaped foliage that give the plant its species name lanceloata pronounced lank-ee-o-lah-ta, meaning lanceshaped.

Ribwort foliage in snow

The lance -shaped foliage of the ribwort plantain may be found throughout the year, such as this specimen covered by snow. Photograph by D.A.L.
The lance -shaped foliage of the ribwort plantain may be found throughout the year, such as this specimen covered by snow. Photograph by D.A.L.

Basic Biology of the Ribwort Plantain.

This dark green slender perennial produces leaves that rarely exceed an inch in width.there are three to five veins that run the length of the blade. Looking at the underside of the leaf these veins stand proud rib-like its common name alludes to this. The veins taper towards the base of the leaf which then meet the stalk. This stalk can be up to 1 foot long {30cm}. The flower stalks are often more than 2 feet long {60cm] terminating into a single cylindrical blunt dense spike which range in length from one to three inches. {2-6cm}. They are rounded at first but elongate into a cylindrical shape as the head matures.The flower stalks are furrowed and angular as clicking on the photographs will show.

Ribwort flowers

The flower heads are rounded at first then elongate as the head matures. Photograph by D.A.L.
The flower heads are rounded at first then elongate as the head matures. Photograph by D.A.L.
This single specimen in flower shows the filaments and yellow anthers that form a ring around the head. Ribwort flowers dominate the grass land in early summer. Photograph by D.A.L.
This single specimen in flower shows the filaments and yellow anthers that form a ring around the head. Ribwort flowers dominate the grass land in early summer. Photograph by D.A.L.

Medicinal Virtues

The active ingreients include muccilage,tannin,acubine,Vitamin C and silicic acid.

ribwort has long been employed to alleviate coughs and colds. A preparation can be made by infusing 250ml of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of the drug. Drink 3 cups daily. Also has a poultice , mixed with chamomile tea, to treat wounds, insect bites, stings and itchy rashes.

A syrup can be made from the foliage that is recommended for children's coughs, which was once popular in days gone by and said to have had excellent results. 

Ribwort has a natural antibiotic. It was one of the herbs used in the Anglo-Saxon nine herb charm. Between them they were said to cure all afflictions.

Cuckoo flower

The bubbly, frothy flowers of the cuckoo flower adorns the grass land at this time of the year. Photograph by D.A.L.
The bubbly, frothy flowers of the cuckoo flower adorns the grass land at this time of the year. Photograph by D.A.L.

Cuckoo Flower.

The second species that is common in grassland during late spring and early summer is the cuckoo flower, so called because it is said to bloom as the cuckoo arrives in England. They are also known as lady's smock and milkmaids all allude to spring and meadows. Where established the plant produces a plethora of blooms that give a bubbly, frothy appearance to the fields. The plant is associated with the orange tip butterfly whose larvae feed on the seed pods. 

BASIC BIOLOGY OF THE CUCKOO FLOWER.----------------------

It is an almost hairless perennial which attains the height of 30cm under normal growing conditions. they form a rosette of stalked, pinnate basal leaves each with up to 14 rounded lateral leaflets. As with many plants the terminal leaflet is the largest about a one centimetre in diameter. However, the plant produces two types of leaves.Those on the stem are stalk-less with linear leaflets. {compare them looking at the photograph below. } The basal leaves soon wither and by the time the plant is in flower they have often disappeared altogether.

The flowers are a lilac-pink colour. The petals are formed in the manner of a cross. Many plants in this group have this petal formation and collectively they are known as the crucifers, including garlic mustard. {see my hub jack-by -his -hedge a practicable herb}.   The sepals are two point eight to four millimetres long and clasp the petals from beneath. The fruits{seed vessels} are elongated and pod like, some 2-4cm long.

The cuckoo flower delights to grow in damp meadows, wet scrub land and wet woodlands.


MEDICINAL VIRTUES---------------the plants active ingredients include mustard oil, glycocides and vitamin C. In the past the plant has been used in medicine. However, it is no longer utilised in this manner. there are more efficient herbs that have taken its place.

Culinary uses. The leaves can be used in salads, stews and soups. The leaves stem,or basal have a slightly hot taste and they counteract the coldness of salads.

Two types of foliage on the cuckoo flower

I have put the two types of leaves side by side to illustrate the difference. The stem leaves on the left are linear , while the basal leaves on the right have leaflets that are more rounded. Photograph by D.A.L.
I have put the two types of leaves side by side to illustrate the difference. The stem leaves on the left are linear , while the basal leaves on the right have leaflets that are more rounded. Photograph by D.A.L.

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Comments 6 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

itakins, glad you found the hub interesting. Hope you recognise the plants in your woodland garden and make use of them. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

jayjay, thank you so much. I know your love of gardening and nature has led me to many of your hubs. Thank you.

hypnodude, nice to see you here! thank you for reading.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Very interesting as usual, I knew some things about the Ribwort Plantain, but the other one is new to me. Good to know. Rated up!


jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

I learn so much from your hubs, another great piece of writing


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

I recognise these plants from my own woodland garden,I'm sure.Interestin hub-I must check these out with your photos.Thank you.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Darlene, a life time in the countryside has given me a certain knowledge of wildlife. Thank you once again for your encouraging comments. For arthritis see goutweed.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Where did you learn all this, this is wonderful, what what wild plant would you recommend for arthritis? I so enjoy your pictures as well as you wonder stories of history of your countryside. I am so thrilled that I found your hubs, Your friend and fan darski Thumbs up

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