Woodland Lettuce

Lactuca floridana (L.) Gaertn.

Lactuca floridana plants
David Smith

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Asteraceae (Aster Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

This species and the common tall blue lettuce, Lactuca biennis, are the only species of wild lettuce with fruit hairs (pappus) in double rings. Lactuca means milk in Latin and refers to the milky sap of this genus (Fernald 1950).

State Ranking Justification

There is only one existing population with less than 50 plants. There are records from 1851 and 1924 that remain to be checked to see if they still exist.

Short-term Trends

More survey work is needed to understand short-term trends.

Long-term Trends

This plant has always been very rare in New York and continues to exist at low levels.

Conservation and Management


One population is near a path and may be threatened by improper path management or direct trampling.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Plant should be monitored occasionally to see if they are being directly affected by park visitation.

Research Needs

Herbarium work is needed to determine if all specimens are correctly identified. Propagation work should be done to see if the present population could be augmented. We would also like to know what limits its growth in New York.



The plants occur in oak-hickory forest on rich, moist soil. A historical specimen was from hilly, rich woods (New York Natural Heritage Program 2012). Rich woods, thickets and openings (Fernald 1970). Thickets, woods, and moist, open places (Gleason & Cronquist 1991).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Appalachian oak-hickory forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites, usually on ridgetops, upper slopes, or south- and west-facing slopes. The soils are usually loams or sandy loams. This is a broadly defined forest community with several regional and edaphic variants. The dominant trees include red oak, white oak, and/or black oak. Mixed with the oaks, usually at lower densities, are pignut, shagbark, and/or sweet pignut hickory.

Associated Species

  • Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
  • Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
  • Celastrus orbiculatus (Oriental bittersweet)
  • Eurybia divaricata (white wood-aster)
  • Fraxinus americana (white ash)
  • Geum
  • Juglans nigra (black walnut)
  • Maianthemum racemosum
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolius
  • Persicaria virginiana (jumpseed)
  • Prunus serotina
  • Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
  • Rubus
  • Solidago rugosa


New York State Distribution

This wildflower was known from the Hudson Valley from Dutchess County to the Bronx and also in Nassau County on Long Island. There is an unsubstantiated report from Chemung County. It is currently known only in the Bronx.

Global Distribution

This herb is common in the eastern United States east of the short grass prairie. It is less common in the northern tier of states from New York to Minnesota and in the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.

Identification Comments

General Description

This plant is a tall annual or perennial wildflower that grows up to 2 meters tall. The leaf blades only have hairs along the main veins beneath and they vary from elliptic with a few teeth to very lobed or even these few leaflets at the base. The 11-17 (sometimes up to 25) flowers are bluish, or white in a large open inflorescence. The pappus is bright white. The achenes are 4-6 mm long, gray-black and mottled and several-nerved on each face.. The outer fruits are often distinctly thick-beaked, the inner are beakless.

Identifying Characteristics

Distinguishing characteristics: leaves lyrate or runcinate-pinnatifid; flowers bluish, or white; inflorescence ample, open-paniculiform; pappus bright white; achenes gray-black or fuscous, mottled, the outer often distinctly thick-beaked, the inner beakless. Best life stage for ID: in fruit. Characteristics needed to ID: mature achenes.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

The best time to identify this species is when it is in fruit.

Similar Species

Lactuca biennis has a light brown pappus and elongate, narrowly paniculiform inflorescence.

Best Time to See

The plants flower in July and August and mature fruits develop August through mid-October.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Woodland Lettuce flowering and fruiting in New York.

Woodland Lettuce Images


Woodland Lettuce
Lactuca floridana (L.) Gaertn.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Asterales
          • Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Additional Common Names

  • False Lettuce


  • Lactuca floridana var. villosa (Jacq.) Cronq.

Additional Resources


Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2006. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 19. Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, Part 6: Asteraceae, part 1. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiv + 579 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Stephen M. Young

Information for this guide was last updated on: September 20, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Lactuca floridana. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/false-lettuce/. Accessed April 17, 2024.