Other names: Wild Lettuce, Compass Plant
Introduced From: Egypt and Asia Minor
Family: Asteraceae, Daisy Family. 25,000 species in 1100 genera worldwide, about 1000 species in 200 genera in Australia.
Habitat: Roadsides and wastelands
Uses: Young leaves are an excellent vegetable, raw or cooked. Older leaves are coarse and very bitter.
References: Low (Weeds), Richardson and Shepherd
From Tim Low's book: Breeding experiments show that prickly lettuce is the ancestor of all forms of cultivated lettuce. Lettuces with rounded heads were not recorded until 1543. There can be a lot of variations in the shape of the leaves of wild lettuces, but they will all have flat leaves, not heads like an iceberg lettuce.
The sap of lettuces is milky, and their name "Lactuca" comes from the Latin word for milk. Most plants with milky sap are poisonous, though there are a few exceptions. The flowers look a bit like dandelion flowers.
Photo: Lactuca serriola, Prickly Lettuce. Emu Plains, NSW. High resolution (1731 x 2571)
Photo: Lactuca serriola, Prickly Lettuce. Emu Plains, NSW. High resolution (2000 x 3008)
Edible weeds will even grow in the most urban of places. I snapped this photo (below) with my mobile phone while sitting at the traffic lights, waiting for them to change. I wouldn't eat these weeds though. I reckon they would have absorbed too many pollutants from the traffic.
Photo: Lactuca serriola, Prickly Lettuce. Kingswood, NSW. High resolution (1944 x 2592)
Photo: Lactuca serriola, Prickly Lettuce. Kingswood, NSW. High resolution (2592 x 1749)
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