prairie lettuce

(Lactuca ludoviciana)

Conservation Status


No image available

  IUCN Red List

not listed


N4N5 - Apparently Secure to Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

UPL - Obligate upland


Prairie lettuce is an erect biennial or, possibly, a short-lived perennial, with a thick, deep taproot. The stems and leaves contain a brownish, milky latex.

The stems are usually unbranched except in the inflorescence. They are leafy and hairless, often with prickles near the bottom.

The leaves are alternate, stemless, bluish, and usually lobed. They are 8 to 12 long and 2 to 4 wide, becoming smaller as they ascend the stems. They are hairless but have weak (easily bent) prickles on the leaf margin. They are attached at the base without a leaf stalk (sessile). Sometimes, the basal lobes partly surround the stem (clasping). The midvein on the underside also has prickles.

The inflorescence is a long, spreading, cone-shaped, loosely-branched cluster.

The flower heads are from ¾ to 1 across and have 20 to 56 ray florets. The rays are pale yellow or, occasionally, light blue, bluish-white with yellow tips, or pale lilac. They have truncated tips with 5 small teeth. There are no disk florets. The flowers are open for only a brief time in the morning.

The fruit is a brown to blackish achene with fluffy, white bristles attached to the tip.




1 to 5


Flower Color


Pale yellow or, occasionally, light blue, bluish-white with yellow tips, or pale lilac.


Similar Species


Canada lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) has yellow flowers. The flower heads are about across and have 13 to 22 ray florets.

Prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) has yellow flowers. Some of the leaves are often more or less perpendicular to the ground. They have prickles on the margins and stiff sharp prickels on the underside of the midvein.

Blue lettuce (Lactuca pulchella) has blue flowers. The leaves are unlobed or with narrow lobes.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) has bluish to white flowers. The flower heads are about across. The achene has grayish-brown bristles attached to the tip.

Woodland lettuce (Lactuca floridana var. floridana) has leaves on leaf stalks. The flower heads are about across and have 11 to 17 ray florets.


Moist. Prairies, meadows, wood openings, streambanks, open places. Full or partial sun.




July to September


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


Asteraceae (sunflowers, daisies, asters, and allies)  
  Subfamily Cichorioideae (chicories, dandelions, and allies)  
  Tribe Cichorieae (lettuce, chicory, dandelion, and salsify)  
  Subtribe Lactucinae  
  Genus Lactuca (wild lettuces)  

Subordinate Taxa






Lactuca campestris

Lactuca campestris var. typica

Sonchus ludovicianus


Common Names


biannual lettuce

Louisiana lettuce

prairie lettuce

prairie wild lettuce

western lettuce

western wild lettuce

wild lettuce













A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded seed capsule, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.



Describing a leaf that wholly or partly surrounds the stem but does not fuse at the base.



Stalkless; attached at the base without a petiole, peduncle, pedicel, or stalk.

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Fruiting Heads

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Lower Stem Leaves

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Clasping Leaf Base

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