Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Native lettuce

with 31 comments

I’m always happy when I can show off a native species that I’ve finally found after reading about it for a long time. So it is with Lactuca ludoviciana, which apparently goes by the names western wild lettuce, Louisiana wild lettuce, prairie lettuce, prairie wild lettuce, and biannual (or biennial) lettuce. This view, which comes from September 7th adjacent to Bull Creek, looks downward; the brown is from dried tree leaves on the ground. Prairie lettuce is scattered across much of the central and western United States and Canada. The species is in the same Cichorieae tribe of the sunflower family as the skeleton plant you saw here in July.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2019 at 4:36 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Similar to chicory flower and in the same phylogenic tribe Cichorieae. Chicory is very common across the country and world.


    October 7, 2019 at 5:37 AM

    • I’d thought of mentioning the relationship to chicory. Instead, as it’s not native, I called attention to the skeleton plant, which is native in Austin. On our northeastern trip chicory was one of the two most common wildflowers we saw along the highways we traveled.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2019 at 6:17 AM

      • That is what I was abut to say. When I got my chicory, one of the alternate names was wild lettuce, although someone later corrected that.


        October 13, 2019 at 9:51 PM

        • I’m glad to hear it got corrected. They’re in the same tribe but different genera.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 13, 2019 at 10:02 PM

          • It didn’t matter anyway. They grew for only one year, without becoming perennial (by self sowing) like I expected. It is probably better that way. After putting them out there, I was concerned that they might naturalize.


            October 14, 2019 at 2:09 PM

            • They sure have naturalized in many other parts of the country, so that was a real possibility.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 14, 2019 at 3:15 PM

              • I have seen them naturalized elsewhere. I did not think of it until after I planted mine.


                October 14, 2019 at 4:43 PM

  2. Great shot with a very fitting and pleasing bokeh, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    October 7, 2019 at 8:43 AM

  3. It is a pretty lactuca.


    October 7, 2019 at 9:25 AM

  4. A really beautiful flower – and beautifully captured.

    Otto von Münchow

    October 7, 2019 at 9:57 AM

  5. It also reminded me of a chicory flower, Steve. I think it would be easy to confuse the two (where they coexist).


    October 7, 2019 at 5:46 PM

    • I understand how someone might initially confuse the two. I didn’t have experience with chicory till July and August, when we observed huge amounts of it along roads in the Northeast, nor with this lettuce until September. Now that I’ve seen both plants’ growth habits, I probably wouldn’t mistake one for the other.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2019 at 7:01 PM

  6. They really are lovely little surprises in the sunshine.

    Steve Gingold

    October 7, 2019 at 6:55 PM

  7. Hi Steve – just joining in with the previous comments, to say I initially thought this was chicory – as you experienced, often tons of it along the roads in NY, but that’s more of a cornflower blue. I like this shot, the way the flower looks against the reddish background.

    Robert Parker

    October 8, 2019 at 6:01 PM

    • I’d seen chicory in pictures from wildflower field guides but hadn’t experienced the flowers first-hand. Once I did, I came away with the same perception as you, namely that the flowers shade more toward blue than violet. And you’re sure right about tons of chicory along highways in upstate New York.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2019 at 6:15 PM

  8. Now let us praise famous flowers, and also their less well-known companions, like this Lactuca ludoviciana. Unlike those from the east and north, I thought first of the skeleton plant when I saw the flower, but when I took a look at the Illinois wildflower site I saw why you said you wouldn’t confuse this one with either chicory or skeleton plant. It is a beauty, that’s for sure. I noticed that the Lady Bird Wildflower page for the flower doesn’t have a single photograph. Perhaps someone should remedy that.

    I laughed at the specific epithet. It sounds like it should belong to a character in a Russian novel.


    October 8, 2019 at 8:39 PM

    • I found this plant in a place I’d gone many times before. The flower heads are small, so either I didn’t notice them on previous visits or they weren’t there.

      I’d been meaning to get in touch with Joe at the Wildflower Center after I, too, noticed the absence of photographs for this species. Then various things, including five days near the coast, distracted me.

      The epithet ludoviciana is would-be Latin for ‘pertaining to Louisiana.’ Actually the form (except for the ending) already existed as a Latin rendering of an early version of the German name Ludwig (as in Beethoven and the mad king of Bavaria). Old French got a hold of the early German form and turned it into Louis, after whom Louisiana was named.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2019 at 8:59 PM

      • As it happens, last night I was trying to identify a plant I found some months ago, and I finally found it in the broomrape family. One of the species I noticed was Orobanche ludoviciana, reasonably enough known as Louisiana broomrape.


        October 9, 2019 at 6:40 AM

  9. I found this for the first time myself, over in Lago Vista. I had no idea it would look like this!

    Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

    October 9, 2019 at 12:31 PM

    • I’m used to seeing the yellow-flowered species that are usually alien invasives. This was a welcome find.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2019 at 1:59 PM

  10. you have made this flower so attractive! I’m not usually too fond of the lettuces. This one can apparently be yellowish, too, but the one you found is such a delicate blue-violet shade… much nicer than yellow. 😉


    October 14, 2019 at 6:40 PM

    • The lettuces here with yellow flowers are most often an invasive Eurasian species, so naturally I favor this pretty little, non-yellow native species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 7:59 PM

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