blue lettuce

(Lactuca pulchella)

Conservation Status
blue lettuce
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N4N5 - Apparently Secure to Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Blue lettuce is a 1 to 4 tall, erect, perennial forb rising on usually a single stem from deep-seated, creeping roots. The stems and leaves contain a milky latex.

The stems are leafy and hairless.

The leaves are bluish-green, alternate, and unlobed or with narrow lobes. The underside of the leaves are often covered with a white, waxy bloom.

The inflorescence is several heads in a branched cluster.

The flower heads are about ¾ across and have 10 to 50, usually at least 15, ray florets.

The fruit is a reddish-brown achene with fluffy, white bristles attached to the tip.




1 to 4


Flower Color


Blue to purple


Similar Species


This plant is easily distinguished from other lettuce species by its large, showy flowers.

Canada lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) has yellow flowers.

Prairie lettuce (Lactuca ludoviciana) has prickles along the leaf margins and on the midvein on the underside of the leaf.

Prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) has yellow flowers. The leaves have prickles on the leaf margins and on the underside of the midvein.

The blue species of Lactuca are extremely variable and identifying characteristics overlap, factors which, taken together, make the species difficult to separate.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) has smaller flower heads that are about ⅜ across. The achene has grayish-brown bristles attached to the tip.

Woodland lettuce (Lactuca floridana var. floridana) has smaller flower heads that are about across.


Moist. Meadows, thickets, prairies.




June to September


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


Asteraceae (sunflowers, daisies, asters, and allies)  
  Subfamily Cichorioideae (chicories, dandelions, and allies)  
  Tribe Cichorieae (lettuce, chicory, dandelion, and salsify)  
  Subtribe Lactucinae  
  Genus Lactuca (wild lettuces)  

Considerable disagreement continues about the proper scientific name for this plant. Six names are currently (3/16/2023) in use by widely respected authorities.

ITIS classifies it as Mulgedium oblongifolium;

The Plant List, FNA, NCBI, Minnesota DNR (MNTaxa), and Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas (Bell Herbarium) as Mulgedium pulchellum;

The Global Compositae Database, BONAP, and iNaturalist as Lactuca tatarica;

GRIN and Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri (Yatskievievyck, 2006) as Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella;

USDA PLANTS as Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella;

Plants of the World Online, World Flora Online, GBIF, iNaturalist, NatureServe, Manual of Vascular Plants (Gleason and Cronquist, 1992), and Flora of Minnesota (Chadde, Second Edition, 2019) as Lactuca pulchella.


Subordinate Taxa






Lactuca oblongifolia

Lactuca tatarica

Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella

Lactuca tatarica var. heterophylla

Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella

Mulgedium oblongifolium

Mulgedium pulchellum

Sonchus tataricus


Common Names


biennial blue lettuce

blue lettuce

common blue lettuce

blue lettuce

Tartarian lettuce

wild blue lettuce

woodland lettuce













A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded seed capsule, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.

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