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Least Lettuce

Lactuca saligna

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Treasureflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White African Daisy, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Beaches, cliffs, ditches, riverbanks, roadsides, seaside, wasteland, water.

Yellow, many petals
The inflorescence is a slender (approx. 4cm across), stalked flower spike. The flowers are yellow and measure about 1cm across. The flower bracts are green-tipped.
Spiny, ribbed, dark brown fruit (achene) with a white ring of hairs at the end (pappus).
The lower leaves are pinnately lobed. The upper leaves are narrow and untoothed. The leaves are arrow-shaped auricles which clasp the stems. Annual.
Other Names:
Wild Lettuce, Willow Lettuce, Willowleaf Lettuce, Willow-leaved Lettuce.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Lactuca saligna is a species of lettuce that is native to Europe, Africa and Asia. It is also known as the willow-leaved lettuce or wild lettuce. It is an annual or biennial plant that can grow up to 1.5m tall. The leaves are lanceolate, blue-green and covered in soft hairs. The flowers are yellow and grow in a large, open inflorescence. The seeds are small and dark. It is a wild plant that can often be found along roadsides and in disturbed areas, but it is also cultivated for its medicinal properties. The leaves and the milky sap of the plant are traditionally used to relieve pain, and it is also used in some remedies for asthma, insomnia and anxiety.


Lactuca saligna, commonly known as Least Lettuce, is a species of wild lettuce that is native to Europe and Western Asia. This plant is a member of the Asteraceae family and is closely related to the common garden lettuce (Lactuca sativa). However, unlike its domesticated relative, Least Lettuce is not widely cultivated for food and is considered more of a wildflower.


Least Lettuce is a herbaceous perennial plant that typically grows to a height of 60-150 cm. Its leaves are long and slender, and can grow up to 30 cm in length. The leaves are alternate and deeply lobed, with a smooth or slightly hairy texture. The stems of Least Lettuce are usually purple or red in color and are also slightly hairy.


Least Lettuce blooms in the late spring and summer, producing small yellow flowers that are arranged in loose clusters at the end of the stems. The flowers are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. They are also self-fertile, meaning that they do not require pollination from other plants to produce seeds.


Least Lettuce is native to Europe and Western Asia and is found in a wide range of habitats, including meadows, fields, roadsides, and waste places. It is considered a weed in some areas, particularly in North America where it has been introduced and is now naturalized.


While Least Lettuce is not commonly grown for food, it has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The plant contains a milky sap that is known to have mild sedative properties and has been used as a natural remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and nervousness. The sap can also be used topically to soothe skin irritation and burns.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Least Lettuce is also an important plant for wildlife. The flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, while the seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.

In conclusion, Least Lettuce may not be as well-known as its domesticated relative, but it is an interesting and important plant in its own right. Its sedative properties and importance to wildlife make it a valuable addition to any garden or natural area.

More Information about Least Lettuce

Information about the sedative properties of Least Lettuce:

The sedative properties of Least Lettuce are due to the presence of lactucin and lactucopicrin, two compounds found in the milky sap of the plant. These compounds are known to have a mild sedative effect on the nervous system, which can help to promote relaxation and sleep.

In traditional medicine, Least Lettuce has been used as a natural remedy for a variety of conditions related to stress and anxiety, including insomnia, nervousness, and restlessness. It has also been used to treat headaches, coughs, and rheumatism.

The sedative effects of Least Lettuce are relatively mild compared to other natural remedies and prescription medications, and are generally considered safe when used in moderation. However, as with any herbal remedy, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before using Least Lettuce, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition.

In addition to its sedative properties, Least Lettuce has also been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. These properties may help to reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative damage in the body, which could have a number of potential health benefits.

Overall, while Least Lettuce may not be as well-known as other medicinal herbs, its sedative and health-promoting properties make it a valuable addition to any natural health toolkit. Whether used as a tea, tincture, or topical remedy, Least Lettuce has a lot to offer for those seeking natural ways to promote relaxation, sleep, and overall well-being.

Information about the wildlife value of Least Lettuce:

Least Lettuce is an important plant for wildlife, providing food and habitat for a variety of species. The flowers of Least Lettuce are an important source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, and are particularly attractive to bumblebees and honeybees.

In addition to providing food for pollinators, Least Lettuce also produces seeds that are eaten by birds and small mammals. The seeds are small and lightweight, and are dispersed by the wind and by animals that eat the plant.

Least Lettuce also provides habitat for a variety of insects, including caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) and the Gold Spot moth (Plusia festucae). These insects feed on the leaves of the plant and can be an important food source for birds and other predators.

Overall, Least Lettuce is an important plant for supporting biodiversity and ecosystem health. By providing food and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, Least Lettuce helps to maintain healthy ecosystems and supports the health and well-being of all living things.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map