showy blue lettuce

(Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

showy blue lettuce

NatureServe

N4N5 - Apparently Secure to Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland

Midwest

FAC - Facultative

Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative

Nativity

Native

 
Occurrence

 

 
Habitat

Moist. Meadows, thickets, prairies.

 
Flowering

June to September

     
Flower Color

Blue to purple

     
Height

1 to 4

     

Identification

This is a 1 to 4 tall, erect, perennial forb rising on usually a single stem from deep-seated, creeping roots. The stems and leaves contain a milky latex.

The stems are leafy and hairless.

The leaves are bluish-green, alternate, and unlobed or with narrow lobes. The underside of the leaves are often covered with a white, waxy bloom.

The inflorescence is several heads in a branched cluster.

The flower heads are about ¾ across and have 10 to 50, usually at least 15, ray florets.

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

 
Similar
Species

This plant is easily distinguished from other lettuce species by its large, showy flowers.

Canada lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) has yellow flowers.

Prairie lettuce (Lactuca ludoviciana) has prickles along the leaf margins and on the midvein on the underside of the leaf.

Prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) has yellow flowers. The leaves have prickles on the leaf margins and on the underside of the midvein.

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

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) has smaller flower heads that are about ⅜ across. The achene has grayish-brown bristles attached to the tip.

Woodland lettuce (Lactuca floridana var. floridana) has smaller flower heads that are about across.


Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28.

Comments

Taxonomy
Considerable disagreement exists about the proper scientific name for this plant. At least five names are currently in use by widely respected authorities. ITIS37 classifies it as Mulgedium oblongifolium; GRIN38 as Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella; The Plant List36 and FNA45 as Mulgedium pulchellum; PLANTS3 as Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella; and The Global Compositae Checklist39 as Lactuca tatarica, with no subspecies or varieties recognized; and Chadde, in Flora of Minnesota, as Lactuca pulchella. Closer to home, both Minnesota DNR (MNTaxa28) and Bell Herbarium4 classify it as Mulgedium pulchellum.


Taxonomy

Family:

Asteraceae (aster)

 

Subfamily:

Cichorioideae

 

Tribe:

Cichorieae

 

Subtribe:

Lactucinae

 

Genus:

Lactuca

 

Section:

Mulgedium

 
Synonyms

Lactuca oblongifolia

Lactuca pulchella

Lactuca tatarica

Lactuca tatarica var. heterophylla

Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella

Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella

Mulgedium oblongifolium

Mulgedium pulchellum

Sonchus tataricus

 
Common
Names

biennial blue lettuce

blue lettuce

showy blue lettuce

wild blue lettuce

woodland lettuce


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Achene

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.

       

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