Prickly lettuce

25th August 2006, Friday

I enjoy grubbing about on small brownfield sites to see if I can find anything that might not occur on ostensibly more interesting sites. The other day I had to take my car to the garage in Bulverhythe and did a quick survey of the car park while waiting. Among other things I noticed sticky groundsel, swinecress and the plant in the picture, prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola. This is the species from which cultivated lettuces are said to have been developed, though the resemblance is not easy to see until our garden plants have run to seed. Prickly lettuce is quite common in waste places and has been spreading over the last fifty years or so. Its much rarer and smaller congener, least lettuce, Lactuca saligna is only found on the shingle at Rye Harbour in our area