Lactuca virosa | ‘Bitter Lettuce’, ‘Great Lettuce’, ‘Laitue Vireuse’, ‘Opium Lettuce’, ‘Rakutu-karyumu-so’, ‘Tall Lettuce’, ‘Wild Lettuce’ | 25 seeds
Lactuca virosa is a biennial lettuce of the Asteraceae family, closely related to the common lettuce, Lactuca sativa. It’s used as a foodstuff (it’s a great source of calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, proteins and vitamins), in homeopathy and as a source of Lactucarium latex.
Similar in appearance to the ‘Prickly Lettuce’, Lactuca serriola, the hardy virosa grows to roughly two metres tall and produces delicate pale-yellow flowers from July to September. Easy to cultivate across USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9, virosa is fairly frost-resistant and is consequently widespread around much of Europe, Africa, the USA and West Asia. It’s also often to be found growing wild in Australia, Russia, the south east of England and the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
Virosa grows wild on grassy canal banks, roadsides and similar situations and is a hermaphroditic species, requiring pollination by insects. It prefers moist (but well-drained) light sandy or loamy soil with a PH level of 7 and a sunny position.
The species is easy to germinate (soaking the seeds for half an hour before sowing helps dramatically) and should be surface-sown on sterilised, well-watered, potting soil – or a mixture of earth and peat moss. The seeds need light in order to germinate and must be kept moist at all times. Virosa seeds take anywhere from a week to a month to germinate, with the optimal temperature for this being approximately 21°C. Once the plants have grown a minimum of three sets of leaves they may be planted outdoors fifty to one hundred centimetres apart, where they should continue to be kept moist but not waterlogged.
Unfortunately, this species is often a target of unscrupulous vendors selling mislabeled seed, but we guarantee that ours is 100% genuine Lactuca virosa!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018