Botanical Name: Lactuca serriola
Common Names:Prickly lettuce, Milk thistle, Compass plant, Scarole
Prickly lettuce is a Annual/Biennial plant that if left can grow to around 2m tall if parts of the plant are broken or cut it exudes a white latex substance known as lactucarium.
It grows erect and can have a single stem or branches which are red/green in colour and can have many leaves branching off. It has spines on main stem especially near the base.
The leaves start off as a short lived basal rosette before the main stem emereges.The leaves alternate along the stem vertically side by side in 2 rows. The leaves are oblong/lanceolate in shape and often pinately lobed with uneven toothed margins. The leaves have spines on the underside midrib and are between 3cm-18cm in length.
The flowers are around 1cm-1.5cm in size and pale yellow in color and only slightly protrudes from the flower cup.
The leaves are the main part of the plant that is usually eaten. It is best to eat the smaller younger leaves as when the plant matures they become very bitter.The leaves can can be used fresh in salads or cooked(though may cause gastric upset if eaten in large amounts).
Prickly lettuce has been used to treat: Whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, urinary tract infection, rheumatic pain, due ulcers, insomnia. The plant has mild analgesic effects.