IUCN threat status:

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This unusual species has been sadly neglected from many wildflower field guides. Although it has an extensive range in the eastern half of the United States, Red-Flowered Wild Lettuce appears to be uncommon to rare in most areas. The preceding description applies to var. sanguinea, rather the typical variety. In other areas of its range, Lactuca hirsuta may have yellow flowerheads and the hairiness of its stems and leaves can be variable (from nearly hairless to very hairy). Red-Flowered Wild Lettuce can be easily confused with the more common Lactuca canadensis (Common Wild Lettuce), which is itself a rather variable species. Generally, Common Wild Lettuce has flowerheads that are pale yellow to dull orange, flowerheads with shorter bases (involucres) that are ½" or less, and shorter achenes (less than 4 mm. long). Common Wild Lettuce is usually completely glabrous (except for some hairs along the lower midribs of its leaves), and its upper stems and floral branches are usually less purple. Another species, Lactuca biennis (Tall Blue Lettuce), has light blue to cream-colored flowerheads and its achenes have shorter beaks and tufts of tawny or gray hair, rather than white hair. These different Lactuca spp. cannot be identified reliably unless the flowerheads or tufted achenes are available for examination. Another common name of Lactuca hirsuta is Hairy Wild Lettuce.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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