Wild Lettuce, Woodland Lettuce

by Green Deane

in Greens/Pot Herb, Plants

Lactuca Floridana early in the season

  Lactuca floridana:  Let Us Eat Wild Lettuce

Lactuca floridana has blue blossoms

Wild lettuce is not as tame as garden lettuce.

Garden lettuce is one of those nearly flavorless nearly nutritionless affectations of agriculture. Don’t misunderstand me: I like domesticated lettuce. But it is the milquetoast of the lettuce world. It’s genteel. Wild lettuce still has some kick to it. That kick is bitterness, which comes from the latex sap. Thus wild lettuce breaks one of the cardinal rules of foraging: Avoid white sap. It is one of a half dozen or so plants with white sap that is edible in some way. In the case of wild lettuce, boiling. When young the bitterness is less pronounced, and in some species is very mild or missing.

Note veins on leaves and uneven lobes

There are many species of wild lettuce. (See Lettuce Labyrinth) All grow rank as they age, so it is best to harvest them between four and 12 inches high. Woodland Lettuce tends to have lobed leaves on bottom and grassy leaves on top. Look for a V-shaped leaf stem and pure white milky sap.  It’s one of my favorite spring time greens, boiled for about 10 minutes and served warm with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Depending on size, I chop them up and eat stems and all.

Lactuca (lak-TOO-ka) is a Latin form of lac, an illusion to the milky sap. Floridana is Latin for of Florida. Some Lactuca, by the way, are diuretic, such as the L. scariola. The dried sap of some of the species, L. virosa,  mimics opium but the sap is difficult to collect and it only puts one to sleep, temporarily

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Plant has milky sap. Tall plant with lobbed green leaves, often powdery gray-green, dandelion-like flower cluster except blue, not yellow.  The lactuca changes little in appearance from young to old, only growing larger, with more lobs on the leaves. End lobe on old leaves is arrow shaped. There can be much variation with some Lactuca having straight leaves with out any lobes at all. Look for flowers on many spikes rather than a cluster. The underside of lower leaves usually have a few hairs along the stem.

TIME OF YEAR: Spring time.

ENVIRONMENT: Lawns, fields, vacant lots, waste areas, parks.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Young leaves in salads, tend to be bitter, older leaves boiled for 10/15 minutes.  I like them with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Also eaten are L. canadensis, L. intybacea, L. scariola and L. muralis.


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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Nelson June 29, 2017 at 14:25

Not sure if it’s in my yard, I picked a leaf off what I thought was some, rolled it up and dipped it in salad dressing and ate it. No bitter taste at all. Maybe it was a dandelion. Hope I don’t poison myself trying stuff in the yard.


Tutu Sainz June 21, 2017 at 23:17

Dear Green Deane,

Your website is a fantastic gift to the world, and I can’t thank you enough for creating it! I’ve learned so many wonderful things from reading your work and I am so thankful to you for your teachings. I made a blog post about how I learned that many garden plants I previously considered weeds are actually useful. Hurray! If you would like to see the post I wrote that features your website, here it is:


Sending prayers for every good thing to come your way.



Kim Bledsoe May 16, 2017 at 16:35

Is this available in grocery stores? Where do you get the dried powder? I appreciate any help. I have fibromyalgia, frozen shoulder, bursitis, tendonitis..PAIN IS REAL


Green Deane May 16, 2017 at 16:53

Lettuce is not a good pain reliever. The research on that is conclusive. The internet recently has bee hyping nonsense about it being a pain reliever.


abby hill April 18, 2017 at 11:00

Does it grow in Panama city fla. Bay county


Green Deane April 18, 2017 at 16:49

Yes… all over the place.


Terri April 6, 2017 at 22:06

Do you know if I can find wild lettuce growing anywhere in the state of Kentucky and if not where would be the closest place I can find it and does that powder that you can buy from the store and the extract the same as if I find my own growing wild


Green Deane April 12, 2017 at 18:31

Wild lettuce is very common in Kentucky. If you are looking for Lactuca virosa it is not common anywhere in the United States and it is a very poor pain killer, has no opium characteristics, and at best might help you sleep a little better.


hannah March 30, 2017 at 10:29

What’s the difference between the yellow flowers and purple ones you stated? First time hearing purple. Ty


Green Deane March 30, 2017 at 20:03

Different colored flowers, different colored sap, similar growth patten but distinctive enough to tell them apart.


Maryellen March 23, 2017 at 10:41

this lettuce almost looks like dandelion leaves.
Does it look like those leaves???
if not where could I find the seeds so that I would be able to plant som


julianne kuhl November 15, 2016 at 18:39

your “wild lettuce” looks like what we call Chickory here in Pennsylvania. same plant???


julianne kuhl November 15, 2016 at 18:43

now that i’ve read some of the comments, i saw someone’s question about chickory. you responded it was not the same that one has oval stems and the other has something else [i forgot already… short term memory]. so now my question is which is which? maybe i need to dig out my books and stop pestering you. 🙂


Green Deane November 16, 2016 at 07:44

Hair on the stem.


Green Deane November 16, 2016 at 07:45

Distant relatives. Common names don’t mean much. There are 18 or so “pig weeds” in the U.S.


Meg July 8, 2015 at 16:08

So aside from mild diuretic or opiate effects, all lactuca are safe (if not all tasty) to eat, right?


Green Deane July 9, 2015 at 19:52

Yes, but the opiate effects are grandly overstated.


Gnome November 13, 2015 at 18:27

You have to take a lot to get an affect like pot. We are to used to overly potent everything. I have been using 1/2 tsp of dried powder for fibromyalgia pain. Its the whole leaf, dried and powdered, not the sap specifically it calms my pain and anxiety and regulates my sleep. If you want to get high, buy pot or drink a beer. If you want to heal your body, lactuca virosa is fab. Many of my friends find its the only thing that brings a full night sleep. Happy foraging.


Tara June 12, 2016 at 19:57

Fantastic I have fibromyalgia and I am harvesting this now


Brooke Spears March 25, 2017 at 12:07

I also use a small amount in powdered for either in tea or in a smoke blend to help with chronic pain. Its good stuff.


Mary February 16, 2015 at 18:13

I planted a roll of wild lettuce, it has now bolted with lots of yellow flowers, is it safe to cook the flowers and blend it up to make a smoothy? I don’t care how it taste, I can drink it by adding honey and protein powder. Is it okay to drink?


Green Deane February 16, 2015 at 20:33

Young and tender is better than blossomed and old.


martin November 5, 2014 at 18:52

I have a few pictures of some plants in my yard I would like to start eating them but lack the knowledge. I live in central/south Florida and it’s nov. 5 2014 . How do I submit photos?


Green Deane December 1, 2014 at 18:21

YOu can do it on the Green Deane Forum on the UFO page, unidentified flowering objects.


betty Jones June 13, 2014 at 14:03

Can you use the roots of wild lettuce for anything?


Green Deane June 13, 2014 at 15:17

Not that I’ve heard of.


Lori July 14, 2016 at 00:57

I’ve been making tons of what I call “dandelion root tea” because when roasted and pulverized and brewed, that is exactly what it tastes like. I can’t find confirmation that anyone else has done this, but before I blog about it, I am trying to do a bit more research, but so far, all I have is first hand experience enjoying it.


Ann Francis May 29, 2014 at 10:43

Isn’t this chicory?


Green Deane May 29, 2014 at 15:35

No. The leaf stem is shaped differently in chicory, oval vs triangular.


Rita Teele January 17, 2013 at 01:52

Any idea about the Vitamin C content of Lactuca muralis? It is very common near the river here in New Zealand–in an area that was mined for gold 1862 and later. Miner’s lettuce is here as well. We are wondering whether wall lettuce was specially brought to combat scurvy that was rife on the gold fields.

Love your website and videos–Rita Teele from the South Island


Green Deane January 17, 2013 at 06:24

As a species wild lettuce have almost no vitamin C.


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