Lactuca serriola L.


=Lactuca scariola 


Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)




Prickly Lettuce 


Wild Lettuce        


                            July Photo


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 comments).


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, serra, serrate.  (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 150).        Young 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 comment).       Perhaps 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