prickly lettuce

(Lactuca serriola)

Conservation Status
prickly lettuce
Photo by Alfredo Colon
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Prickly lettuce is an erect annual or biennial with a thick, deep taproot. The stems and leaves contain a white milky latex.

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

The leaves are alternate, stalkless, blue-green, and usually lobed. The basal lobes are angular and clasp the stem. They are up to 12 long and 4 wide near the base, becoming smaller as they ascend the stems. They are hairless but have prickles on the leaf margin. The midvein on the underside also has prickles. The leaves are often oriented in a flat, north-south plane.

The inflorescence is a long, spreading, cone-shaped, loosely-branched cluster with 13 to 27, usually 18 to 24, yellow flowers.

The flower heads are about across and have 12 to 20 yellow ray florets. The rays have truncated tips with 5 small teeth. They dry to a bluish-white.

The fruit is a pale grayish to tan achene with fluffy, white bristles attached to the tip.




1 to 5


Flower Color


Yellow, drying to bluish-white


Similar Species


The blue species of Lactuca are extremely variable and identifying characteristics overlap, factors which, taken together, make the species difficult to separate.

Showy blue lettuce (Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella) has large, showy flower heads that measure, ¾ across. There are no prickles on the midvein on the underside.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) has bluish to white flowers. The achene has grayish-brown bristles attached to the tip. There are no prickles on the midvein on the underside.

Woodland lettuce (Lactuca floridana var. floridana) has light blue flowers. There are no prickles on the midvein on the underside.


Roadsides, disturbed sites.




July to September




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 24,28.




Native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. Introduced and naturalized in North America.





  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 (dicots)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


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

Subordinate Taxa






Lactuca scariola

Lactuca virosa


Common Names


Canada wild lettuce

China lettuce




prickly lettuce

wild lettuce

wild opium












A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded fruit, 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.

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Alfredo Colon
  prickly lettuce    Photos


  prickly lettuce    






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Other Videos
  2014 4K Lactuca serriola C0041-23
Nature Documentaries

Published on Jun 11, 2014

26 May 2014, Athens, GA. Lactuca serriola plant.

  Wild Lettuce: Lactuca Virosa And Serriola With Garden

Published on Jun 7, 2013

My garden with close ups of the wild lettuce (a.k.a opium lettuce). Lactuca virosa and lactuca serriola are shown. Lactucarium can be extracted from these plants. Enjoy the video

  Prickly Lettuce (Lactusa Serriola) - 2012-07-28

Published on Jul 30, 2012

Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola) is an annual or biennial plant, slightly foetid, that is commonly considered a weed of orchards, roadsides and field crops. The closest wild relative of cultivated lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), it grows throughout the temperate regions of all major continents.

De kompassla of Wilde sla (Lactuca serriola) is een een- of tweejarige plant uit de composietenfamilie (Compositae oftewel Asteraceae).

  Weed of the Week #807 - Prickly Lettuce (Air Date 9/22/13)
AgPhD's channel

Published on Oct 1, 2013

It's our Weed of the Week, Prickly Lettuce.

  Wild Edibles with Sergei & Valya Boutenko - Purple thistle or prickly lettuce

Uploaded on Oct 9, 2008 and

Two days ago Sergei Boutenko gave a wild edibles class in "het Vondelpark" in Amsterdam, Holland. Here you see the part about the purple thistle or prickly lettuce. Did you know, that you can make a green smoothie with it or eat the inside of the stem in a salad? For the complete 60 minute video, in which Sergei shows about 20 wild edibles outside in the parc, go to




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