Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Canada Lettuce, Tall Lettuce, Tall Wild Lettuce
Lactuca canadensis

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lactuca (lak-TOO-kuh) (Info)
Species: canadensis (ka-na-DEN-sis) (Info)

2 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Not Applicable

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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2 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive jeffinithaca On Aug 14, 2010, jeffinithaca from Groton, NY wrote:

I've just recently noticed a very odd-looking plant in a part of my property that I do not garden in. This odd weed seemed to shoot up without warning and stumped every gardener I showed it to. I finally was able to identify it as Tall or Wild Lettuce. What is even more odd, I live near Ithaca, New York and to my knowledge, this species doesn't thrive this far north. And it does thrive, as it is close to eleven feet tall. It is a remarkable plant but I was afraid that it would most certianly be a harmful weed to have so I clipped it in a weak moment. I only finally identified it after the fact. I appreciate the vast amount of knowledge on this website, it was here that I finally ended the mystery.
I have mixed feelings about cutting it down but I won't lose any sleep over it either.
It'll remain a mystery as to how it even ended up here. I would assume it was via a bird.


Positive Sherlock_Holmes On Jun 25, 2006, Sherlock_Holmes from Millersburg, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

The following information is from The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America by Francois Couplan Ph.D. (Note: This information applies to all Wild Lettuces of the Lactuca genus.)

"Lettuce contains vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, and E, minerals, a bitter principal, and various substances, including a very large proportion of water for cultivated specimens: up to 96% in certain "iceberg" types, notwithstanding the chemical residues found in commercially grown plants.

The plant is soothing, emollient, laxative, depurative, and refrigerant.

The latex of cultivated plants when they go to seed, or especially of wild lettuce (especially L. virosa - naturalized from Eurasia in California), yields a dark brown, very bitter substance after drying known as "lactucarium," which has antispasmodic, sedative, and hypnotic properties. It has been used medicinally like opium, the dried latex of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum, Papaveraceae), with good results in certain cases. Moreover, lactucarium has no toxicity. It has even been used as a substitute to cure opium addiction.

The juicy pith within the stems of flowering lettuce is delicious to eat raw after peeling the outer rind of the stem. Some varieties, known as "celtuce," are now grown specifically for this purpose in North America.

Garden lettuce has been cultivated since Antiquity.

The very young shoots and leaves, light green and tender, of the various species of wild lettuce are delicious raw in salads. Older leaves may be cooked in several waters to eliminate their bitterness.

The inflorescences are edible as well."

The following information is from Edible Wild Plants: Eastern / Central North America by Lee Allen Peterson.

"Use: Salad, cooked green, cooked vegetable. Although somewhat bitter, the young leaves can be added fresh to salads or boiled 10-15 minutes in 1 change of water and served with butter or vinegar. The cooked leaves still leave a slightly bitter aftertaste and are best mixed with other greens. The developing flowerheads, before the stems unfold and the flowers bloom, impart a unique bitter flavor when added to casseroles."

Neutral raisedbedbob On Mar 2, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

American Indians used plant tea as a mild sedative, nerve tonic and pain reliever. Milky latex from the stem was used on warts, pimples poison ivy rash and other skin irritations.

Neutral JodyC On Jan 17, 2005, JodyC from Palmyra, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

The small flowers attract bees primarily, such as Megachile latimanus (Large Leaf-Cutting Bee sp.). Goldfinches occasionally eat the seeds. Notwithstanding the bitter white latex in the foliage, mammalian herbivores occasionally eat this plant. The Cottontail Rabbit eats the tender leaves of first-year plants, while the White-Tailed Deer eats the tops off of more mature plants. Horses are reportedly very fond of this plant.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Benton, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Valley Lee, Maryland
Halifax, Massachusetts
Mountain Grove, Missouri
Rogersville, Missouri
Groton, New York
Glouster, Ohio
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
San Antonio, Texas
Santa Fe, Texas

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