Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)
Plant Characteristics: Annual,
+/- prickly-bristly, especially below, 6-15 dm. tall; lvs. spinose-denticulate,
entire or pinnatifid, sessile or sagittate-clasping, 4-16 cm. long, soft-prickly
beneath along midrib; heads many 9-14 fld.; invol. 10-12 mm. high, with
phyllaries in ca. 4 lengths; fls. yellow, often drying purplish; ray fls. five
toothed at summit; aks. oblanceolate, with muriculate apex, 5-7 ribbed on each
face, the beak filiform; pappus white.
Munz and Abrams both recognize var.
integrata. Flora Europea, however, does not list any variations of the plant.
Gordon Marsh and Fred Roberts at the UCI Museum of Systematic Biology
feel that because this is a European plant that Flora
Europea should be the guiding authority.
The 1993 Jepson Manual includes var.
integrata within L. serriola. (my
Habitat: Common and
widespread weed, below 2000 m.; even present on the deserts. May-Sept.
Name: Ancient name from
Latin, lac, milk, because of the milky
sap. (Munz, Flora So. Calif.
196). New Latin, scariola, wild lettuce. Latin,
(Jaeger 230, 237).
General: Common in the study
area, particularly at 23rd Street. Photographed
at 23rd Street. Plants with pinnate
leaves were found in 1998 on a landslide covering Back Bay Dr., located at the entrance
to Shellmaker Island. Whether these
plants occurred on the bank before it slipped is unknown.
(my comments). The gum of the roots of all
species may be used for chewing. (Kirk
plants and the leaves of older plants may be eaten raw in salads or cooked as
greens. After flowering they become
rather tough. L. sativa is the common garden lettuce. (Kirk 50).
A plant tea was made from the leaves of prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola, this was used as a general tonic.
After childbirth, a young mother could hasten the flow of milk from her
breasts by drinking a leaf tea made from either prickly lettuce, L.
serriola or blue lettuce, L. bennis.
(Fielder 163, 229).
Lactuca serriola has been found
to accumulate free nitrates in quantities capable of causing death or distress
in cattle and has been known to cause dermatitis in humans.
(Fuller 385, 371).
The dried latex, smoked like opium, brings to mind, by taste at least,
the reason for Lactucarium once having been referred to as Lettuce Opium.
Other similarities are probably placebo only.
(Moore, Medicinal Plants of the
Desert and Canyon West
128). L. virosa, is a narcotic and poisonous. (Meyer 99). Meyer
does not state where this plant is found. (my
90 species widely distributed. (Munz,
Flora So. Calif. 196).
Text Ref: Hickman, Ed. 296;
Munz, Calif. Flora 1304; Munz, Flora
So. Calif. 196; Robbins et al. 483; Roberts 12.
Photo Ref: July 1 83 # 19,20;
July 1 84 # 18; June-Aug 98 # 18,19.
Identity: by R. De Ruff.
First Found: July 1983.
Computer Ref: Plant Data 185.
Have plant specimen.
Last edit 5/8/05.
July Photo August Photo