Mulgedium pulchellum (Showy Blue Lettuce)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist prairie, meadows, thickets
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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] Open panicles of showy blue dandelion type flowers, ½ to 1 inch across. Flowers have 14 to 50 rays (petals) with 5 small teeth at the tip and fading to white at the base. Each ray has a blue divided style and a blue stamen at the base. Elongated overlapping bracts form a cylindrical tube around the base of the flower.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are oblong to lanceolate, 3 to 6 inches long, ½ to 1½ inches wide, sometimes with a few pairs of lobes on the lower half, usually the lower leaves. The few basal leaves are stalked, stem leaves are stalkless or clasping, toothless or marginally toothed, smooth on the upper surface, sometimes with a fine waxy bloom underneath. Stems are slender, smooth or finely hairy at base, and leafy up to the panicles.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dandelion type plume of small ribbed red-brown seeds with bright white fluff to carry them off in the wind.


This species was formerly in the Lactuca genus, going by a number of names: Lactuca tatarica, Lactuca pulchella, Lactuca oblongifolia. The flowers are much like Chicory (Cichorium intybus) but Chicory has much larger flowers, is a taller plant, and the clusters are more like elongated spikes, not a branching panicle. While widespread throughout Minnesota and North America this species is not one we've commonly encountered. Its frail demeanor and usually sparse dispersal within its habitat could be reasons it may not stand out and catch the eye, but you might also be lucky enough to encounter a swarm of it.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County and the Dakotas.


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

Posted by: Karine - Pipestone County
on: 2010-11-30 12:59:43

Split Rock Creek State Park, found near the quartzite warming house and in the reconstructed prairies.

Posted by: Joel - Iron Horse prairie SNA, near Hayfield
on: 2015-08-15 20:16:43

I have a poor photo of what looks to me to be this showy blue lettuce. I found it on the SE railbed. Although I have visited Iron Horse nearly monthly for many years, this is the first time I have seen this plant.

Posted by: Terry - In a ditch near the Seven Sisters Prairie
on: 2016-07-13 14:21:51

Found one plant blooming. Very pretty blue color. Nice change from all the "little asters".

Posted by: Nadine Thiel - northwestern Grant County
on: 2018-07-15 18:51:39

Growing at roadside.

Posted by: HvHughes
on: 2020-07-09 17:27:26

along the roadsides at Belgium Prairie east of Euclid (polk county)

Posted by: Marla - Rosemount
on: 2020-07-14 13:22:22

It is growing in the garden and has started to bloom with a beautiful blue/purple aster like bloom. It came up in the spring, surviving our winter and garden tilling. Could have been seeded by the birds or arrive in my variety pack of lettuce seeds. Beautiful flower!

Posted by: Connie Cox - Lake Itasca
on: 2020-07-23 15:12:50

Growing on edge of a moist ditch. Itasca Township, Clearwater County. Located 5.5 miles north of Itasca State Park. First time I have seen this plant. There were 2 separate plants in the same location.

Posted by: Charles Argue
on: 2020-07-27 11:03:35

ITIS lists M. pulchellum as a synonym of M. oblongifolium.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-07-27 15:19:10

Charles, we don't reference ITIS, but go by Flora of North America on this one, though Michigan Flora also lists this as Mulgedium pulchellum. FWIW, BONAP lists both species as Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella. Pick a name.

Posted by: Brett W - Big Stone County
on: 2020-08-05 22:07:03

Lots blooming in Clinton Prairie SNA. I'm not that familiar with this plant so am glad to see it is native. Insects were liking it.

Posted by: Jillian F - Foldahl Township, Marshall County
on: 2021-08-06 08:35:52

Found a few plants yesterday near a roadside (Pembina trail).

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