Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Southern Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Lactuca serriola L.
- Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
- Flowering: June-October
- Field Marks: This yellow-flowered wild lettuce has prickly toothed leaves which often turn to
a vertical position.
- Habitat: Old fields, roadsides, disturbed soil.
- Habit: Biennial herb with a thickened taproot.
- Stems: Upright, branched above, smooth or bristly hairy at the base, up to 7 feet tall; milky sap
- Leaves: Alternate, oblong to lanceolate, coarsely spiny-toothed or deeply lobed, pointed at the
tip, sessile or clasping at the base, up to 10 inches long, up to 3 inches wide, and often turning
to a verticle position.
- Flowers: Several, crowded into heads with many heads in an open panicle; each head up to
1/3 inch across, with 6-12 flowers, subtended by several bracts.
- Sepals: 0.
- Petals: 5, pale yellow, united to form flat rays.
- Stamens: 5.
- Pistils: Ovary inferior.
- Fruits: Achenes flattened, obovate to oblong, abruptly tapering to a long, slender beak, strongly
ribbed, up to 1/6 inch long (excluding the beak).
- Notes: The young, tender shoots can be eaten as a vegetable. This plant is easily distinguished
by its distinctive leaves which, in many cases, are growing vertically to the ground and, when torn,
exude a milky sap.
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