Other common names
China lettuce, wild lettuce, compass plant
A bushy, much‐branched drought‐tolerant plant that grows to 5+ feet tall. A common weed of mid‐summer in disturbed areas, prickly lettuce forms a rosette (ground‐hugging form) in winter or early spring and grows flowering stems in summer. All plant parts ooze a milky, sticky sap when broken.
Larger below and smaller above; twist at the stem to point upright. They have sharp spines on the underside of the midrib and on the edges, and clasp the stem. Some plants have lobed leaves, and other do not.
Prickly stems grow from the base of the plant and branch above
Small and yellow with toothed tips on the petals. Blooms from summer to fall.
Produces a puffball of wind‐dispersed seeds.
Grows a deep taproot.
Europe; naturalized throughout the United States
Where it grows
Gardens, yards, vacant lots, roadsides, urban areas and other disturbed or unmanaged sites
Winter annual (sprouts in fall or early winter) or sometimes biennial (flowers and dies in the second year)
Reproduces by seed.
Preventing seed production is key to controlling this weed. Each prickly lettuce plant can make as many as 2,300 seeds. A single plant can result in a large infestation the following year. The seeds are ready to sprout soon after they disperse. Plants are most easily removed when they are small rosettes.