Lactuca serriola (Prickly Lettuce)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
  • 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

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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.


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 various Ramsey County locations. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at numerous locations in the seven county Metro area and the Dakotas.


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