Wall Lettuce; Mycelis muralis

Wall Lettuce is related to the lettuce you eat in salads but is not in the same genus. It is also closely related to the Chicory genus. The flowers are all quite similar and you can eat the leaves. Of course Chicory has blue flowers and both Wall lettuce and ordinary Lettuce have yellow flowers.

You may be thinking lettuce flowers ? Well yes a lettuce does produce flowers. How else could you get a packet of lettuce seeds from the garden centre.  If you fail to harvest your lettuce from the garden and especially if it is a hot dry summer then they will ‘bolt’ and produce a tall stem which is topped by lots of little yellow flowers. They look quite similar as they are both in the compositae family meaning the flowers are compound like daisy and sun flower. However in Wall Lettuce  they only have five petals sticking out round the outside and the central region is made up of just stamens and stigmas so no actual disc florets, thus a long way from a sunflower which has hundreds of disc florets making up he central ‘face’ of the flower.

This one was growing at the side of my house. The leaves are quite similar to the leaves of Fathen.

It is a perennial but fairly short lived.  This one was particularly short lived, because soon after photographing it I pulled it up. Although the flowers are small they do produce vast numbers of seeds, the light feathery type which soon find a nice moist spot and before you know it your drive is sprouting hundreds of new Wall Lettuce plants…. No thank you.

Here is a photo of one growing out of a wall, the wall is part of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.  A while ago I spent some time their with some friends and unlike the majority of visitors who take snaps of the abbey, I built up quite a collection of shots of the wild life associated with the walls, mostly plants but also a Song thrush that was using the walls to de shell snails. When I have completed this blog on Woodland wildflowers I will turn my attention to other wildflower habitats and one that I quite fancy having a go at is  plants that grow in walls.

As I said the flowers are very small and they are also well spaced apart, this makes photographing them quite difficult. The random spacing means if one is in focus the chances are that the rest will not be. Also because the flower stalk can grow quite tall… pushing 2 meters, it means that the slightest hint of a breeze and the flowers are rocking about all over the place. So I have made my excuses.



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