Prickly Lettuce
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Prickly Lettuce
ative Photo: Gurcharan Singh
Common name: Prickly Lettuce, compass plant • Marathi: bankahoo, kaahu, saaleet • Sanskrit: kakubha • Telugu: kavu
Botanical name: Lactuca serriola    Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Synonyms: Lactuca scariola, Lactuca sylvestris

Prickly Lettuce is an annual or biennial plant, slightly foetid, that is commonly considered a weed of orchards, roadsides and field crops. It is the closest wild relative of cultivated lettuce (Lactuca sativa), it grows throughout the temperate regions of all major continents. The leaves grow along a spiny stem and get progressively smaller as they reach its top. They emit latex when cut. Many flowers are produced and usually appear in the upper part of the plant. It is also known as the compass plant, as in the sun the upper leaves twist round to hold their margins upright. It has a hairless reddish stem, containing a milky latex, growing from 1-6 ft. The leaves are oblong lanceolate, often pinnated (especially for the lower leaves), waxy grey green. Fine spines are along the edges. The undersides have whitish veins. The flower heads, 1.1-1.3 cm across, are pale yellow, often tinged purple. The bracts are also often tinged purple. The achenes are grey, bristly tipped. The pappus is white with equal length hairs. Flowering: July-September.

Identification credit: Gurcharan Singh
Photographed in Balgarden, Srinagar, Kashmir.
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