Great Lettuce - Lactuca virosa


Tall plant to 2 metres, with stems often prickly below and often tinged maroon.  Upper leaves horizontal, finely prickly along the mid-rib beneath. Flowerheads in a pyramidal panicle. Achenes (i.e. ripe 'seeds') maroon to blackish.

Similar Species

Lactuca serriola (Prickly Lettuce)

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

Leaves very variable, but more often lobed, and usually maroon tinged; stem and prickly midribs also tinged maroon.  Ripe achenes ('seeds') maroon to blackish - this is the most reliable feature

Recording advice

The County Recorder has asked for a specimen of this plant to be retained for verification.  Photos showing stems, leaf midribs and achenes - cannot be verified from flowers only.  


Disturbed ground, roadside verges, waste places & banks of streams.

When to see it

July to September.

Life History

Annual or biennial.

UK Status

Widespread in central and south-eastern England, scarcer elsewhere in Britain.

VC55 Status

Infrequent but perhaps increasing in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 14 of the 617 tetrads.

be our species champion

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map