Information on Prickly Lettuce

Common Name: Prickly Lettuce
Scientific Name: Lactuca serriola
Irish Name: Leitís cholgach
Family Group: Asteraceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Prickly Lettuce could sometimes be confused with:

Nipplewort,

This is a relatively new arrival in Ireland and doesn’t appear to have spread much yet, mainly confining itself to Leinster and the southern part of Munster with just a couple of sightings in Ulster. It is a tall, upright, spindly grey-green plant with very small heads of pale yellow florets (11-13mm across) in open clusters. It is a biennial and it can grow quite tall – over 1 metre high – with reddish stems. The alternate, stalkless leaves are lanceloate, with fine prickles or spines along the edges and on the prominent midrib below. They clasp the hairless stems with pointed, arrow-shaped lobes. This species tends to grow on waste and disturbed ground and is in flower from July to September. It is a member of the Asteraceae family. 

I first saw this wildflower in September 2015 when I was out with Paula O’Meara, BSBI Joint Vice-County Recorder for Wexford. We saw it growing on a wall in New Ross, Co Wexford. I photographed it at that time. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Lettuce, Prickly
Lettuce, Prickly

Interestingly, the stems of this species exude a milky sap or latex when they are broken. Prickly Lettuce is known as the compass plant because the upper leaves twist round in sunny weather, holding their edges up to the sun.