showy blue lettuce

(Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella)

Conservation Status
showy 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


Showy 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




Faunal Associations








Distribution Map



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









  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)  
  Species Lactuca tatarica (showy blue lettuce)  

Considerable disagreement exists about the proper scientific name for this plant. At least six names are currently (3/17/2021) in use by widely respected authorities.

ITIS37 classifies it as Mulgedium oblongifolium;

GRIN as Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella;

The Plant List36 and FNA45 as Mulgedium pulchellum;

PLANTS3 as Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella;

The Global Compositae Checklist39 classifies Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella as Lactuca tatarica, with no subspecies or varieties recognized, and Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella as Mulgedium pulchellum; and

Plants of the World Online as Lactuca pulchella.

Closer to home, both Minnesota DNR (MNTaxa) and Bell Herbarium4 classify it as Mulgedium pulchellum.

Chadde, in Flora of Minnesota, Second Edition (2019), classifies it as Lactuca pulchella.


Subordinate Taxa






Lactuca oblongifolia

Lactuca pulchella

Lactuca tatarica

Lactuca tatarica var. heterophylla

Lactuca tatarica var. pulchella

Mulgedium oblongifolium

Mulgedium pulchellum

Sonchus tataricus


Common Names


biennial blue lettuce

blue lettuce

showy blue lettuce

wild blue lettuce

woodland lettuce












A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded fruit, 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.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption. Photos


  showy blue lettuce    

Flower Head

  showy blue lettuce   showy blue lettuce






Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more videos or YouTube links and, if you like, a caption.

Other Videos



Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.





Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.