Lactuca serriola, a rustic plant that is often used in the kitchen

Lactuca serriola  also known as Prickly Lettuce, Wild Lettuce, Broom, Cow’s Tongue, Bird’s Foot or Chicory . It belongs to the Compositae family and is native to Europe and Western Asia, although it has been introduced throughout the world.

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From the Latin “Lac” which means milk, which is due to the milky sap of the stems. As well as “Serro” which means “saw” due to the shape of its leaves that look like teeth.

Characteristics of Lactuca serriola

Annual or biennial xerophytic, heliophilic and rustic herb, which can reach a height of between 5 and 20 cm. The stem is cylindrical, just a little branched, of a milky green color, with a bit of thorns.

The leaves are spiny, rigid, the edges are irregular toothed, the veins are reticulated, dark green. The lower ones are ovate-oblong, while the upper ones are less lobed.

The flowers appear in groups in chapters of a pale yellowish hue. It blooms in the summer.

The fruit is a single-seeded achene, thin, brown to greyish in color, with white bristles that fall off easily.

Lactuca serriola care

It is a species that is found in abandoned fields, edges of ditches, ruderal or roads. But it is also considered an environmental weed in certain territories.

It needs to be in full sun so that it can develop in a positive way.

As for the soil, it must be rich in nitrogen, deep and somewhat humid.

Irrigation should be moderate without puddling.

It is propagated by means of achenes, with anemocratic dispersion, or by seeds.


The leaves are eaten in salads. It should be considered that they have a bitter taste, but the young ones can be eaten raw or cooked.

Latex is considered a substitute for opium, although it is not habit-forming.

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image courtesy of: John Tann

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