Wild Lettuce

(Lactuca canadensis)

Other Names:
Canada lettuce, Canada wild lettuce, tall lettuce, poor man's opium


Asteraceae – Aster family

Growth Type:
Biennial herbaceous

2 - 7 feet tall

The leaves are arranged in a basal rosette, and looking similar to lettuce and chicory, both close relatives. All of these are edible, and they have no poisonous look-alikes, so in the spring, if you see what looks like a dandelion, pick it and eat it. The leaves of Lactuca canadensis have a white milky sap when broken. The leaves are light green, heavily lobed, or toothed, and hairless.

The stem is powdered with a blue-green, waxy bloom. In late spring to early summer, the basal rosette sprouts a tall, branched, scraggly flower stalk.


Flower Season:

Flower Appearance:
The flower stalk has yellow ray-like flowers similar to that of dandelion. As a matter of fact, at this stage, wild lettuce resembles a dandelion gone wild.

Flowers ripen to produce a seed head similar to that of dandelion.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

Disturbed areas, Lawns, lawn edges, along walkways and paths. In overgrown fields, and other open areas.

Parts Used:
Leaves, Flowers

Wild Food Uses:
Add young leaves and crowns to salads. Use as a cooked vegetable similar to spinach. The flowers can be dipped in batter and fried like fritters. I have also heard the flowers can be used for wine making, but I have not personally tried this. Use the leaves and flowers just as you would a dandelion, or chicory.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
This plant contains a white, milky, latex, sap called lacturcarium. This sap is present in the leaves, stem, and roots of the plant. When the plant is young, there is very little of this latex sap, but levels increase as the plant matures. It is medicinally strongest when the plant is in flower. This plant is prized for its relaxing and sedative properties. There is anecdotal evidence that it was used historically as an effective pain reliever. There are members of the Lactuca genus who's sap has a narcotic effect. Historically this plant has been used to ease anxiety, to induce sleep, and as a mild hypnotic. It's effects are said to be similar to those of opiates. That led to the common name poor man's opium.

Medicinal Actions:
Analgesic, Anodyne, Antispasmodic, Bitter, Diuretic, Hypnotic, Narcotic, Nervine, Sedative

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