Lactuca serriola (Prickly Lettuce)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Lactuca
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
Origin:Europe
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; roadsides, disturbed sites, waste places, fields
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Numerous small yellow flowers in an airy panicle at the top of the plant and arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant. Clusters hang in a classic shepard's hook prior to blooming. Flowers are light yellow, ¼ to ½ inch across, with 12 to 20 rays (petals) and narrow overlapping bracts forming a tubular receptacle at the flower base, often splotched with dark glands

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are oblong to lance-shaped, to 12 inches long and 3 inches wide, deeply lobed, becoming smaller and often less lobed as they ascend the stem. Leaf edges have tiny teeth and short prickles all around. Leaves have an angular lobe on either side of the leaf base that clasps and usually extends past the stem.

[photo of leaf prickles] The underside of leaves has a line of prickles along the midrib. Leaf color is blue-green. The main stem is stiff and green or whitish, and may have a few stiff bristles near the base of of the plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a small brown seed with a tuft of white hair to carry it off in the wind.

Notes:

While there are several species with small yellow dandelion type flowers, Prickly Lettuce is easily distinguished by the prickles on the leaves. A widespread weedy species of disturbed areas, Prickly Lettuce does not often encroach on high grade habitat but with the waste acreage provided by human activity it flourishes.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at numerous locations in the Twin Cities Metro area and in the Dakotas.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2018-11-27 10:30:03

I think I may have seen this growing between the sidewalks and buildings in Moose Lake this past summer. I'll be sure to get back to that spot next year and let you know

Posted by: Samuel Redden - Carlton Co, Wright MN
on: 2019-12-26 19:10:08

I gather this plant during the summer to make a plant based pain medicine. It works

Posted by: Amanda - Minnetonka
on: 2020-07-20 14:06:40

It is able to grow in the raingardens on the roadside areas.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-07-20 17:52:19

Amanda, this weed will grow almost anywhere.

Posted by: gary - Carlton County
on: 2020-08-23 00:45:48

Two years late but I saw it in Moose Lake last week. It was growing in a narrow strip of soil between the sidewalk and a building. The plant is widespread in the town.

Posted by: Ali R - Minneapolis
on: 2021-08-03 11:16:55

Can someone direct me where I may collect prickly lettuce or where people have obtained the plant (nature or stores) Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-03 12:20:10

Ali, if you have some herbal or edible use for this weed, just go buy it from a commercial source. Google is your friend. Propagating this yourself will only increase the spread to areas where it is not wanted. Having said that, it's found in all manner of weed-infested places like roadsides and parking lots, where it is likely contaminated and should not be consumed anyway.

Posted by: Peter O. - Afton, MN
on: 2022-05-28 21:29:40

I'm fairly certain this is the weed growing all over our yard. The reason I'm not totally sure is that the plant in my yard has entirely black spines, and the stems are densely prickly, rather than only having a few near the base of the plant. Is it normal for this plant to have black prickles? All the images I can find have green ones.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-05-29 08:57:18

Peter, I don't recall ever seeing prickly lettuce (or any other Lactuca species) with black prickles or densely prickly stems. You probably have a different weed in your yard. Post some images on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page for more help with an ID.

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