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Tree lettuce

 
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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So, my favorite, most hardy and prolific garden plant is either mislabeled or not well known.

Sold locally as 'tree lettuce', but its definitely not asparagus lettuce which also uses that name.
Hard to find information about it on google, hard to even find more than a few pictures of it - which is a real shame.
You can see some here at the front of the garden:



This plant produces large lime green leaves along a stem that can easily surpass 1metre and provide quick shade.
The seeds are larger and more numerous than other lettuce varieties.
It grows year round, there is always some flowering and germinating and it copes fine with summer days over 40C.
The taste is ... inoffensive, but not great. Apart from the wild roadside Lactuca weed, this is the worst tasting lettuce I've tried - it's very 'grassy' flavored when eaten on it's own.

But it tastes fine when mixed with herbs/other greens/tomatos or a dressing and it thrives on neglect, so it's #1 in my book.

I try to specialize in plants that are hardy, but nothing can establish itself in the lawn better than tree lettuce.
A gardening neighbour decided she hates the plant because of it's taste and proclivity to spread outside the garden, however I've found that nothing larger than a mite wants to eat these leaves, while other plants in the garden regularly get nibbled by larger insects, marsupials and rodents.

I think I tracked down a more accurate variety name and country of origin through google many years ago, but now I can't seem to find it.
I vaguely recall it being from Asia (Himalaya?) and that it was a Lactuca virosa/sativa of some variety.
If anyone has any info or questions, I can't talk about this plant enough.
If I could only take 10 plants to garden on a deserted island - this would be one of them.
I believe it's a cornerstone 'survivalist' species and also a valuable green for Australia, where most of the country is too hot to grow lettuce without it instantly bolting.
Opportunistic marsupials are a real gardening problem here, so having nutritious salad greens that no animal wants to eat is a real boon.
 
Jondo Almondo
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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I neglected to mention the happy flowers, which last much longer than other lettuce.

Also shown here is it's tendency to keep growing despite falling over - due to being top heavy rather than being wind blown.

As mentioned in my thread on perennial leeks, I walked away from maintaining these garden beds for many years.
Zero inputs and these lettuces and those leeks (and a cherry tomato) just kept producing.
365 salads a year, for years, with no work.

P-20181122-090639
 
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Hello, and thank you for the page/information.

Having just spent a couple of hours researching, I still don't know what the botanical name is, but I feel pretty confident it isn't a lactuca.  It also isn't pisonia, which is also sometimes called tree lettuce.  I'd like to find out the Latin nomenclature for this plant but haven't had much success so far.

The fleshy or 'stem-y' parts of the leaves are quite yummy -- but, then, I don't dislike the flavour of the leaves anyway.

Best regards,

Randy
 
Posts: 57
Location: Savannah, GA
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Maybe this will help!

https://mountainherbs.com.au/blogs/news/dandelion-and-the-look-alikes

I couldn't help thinking your plant looked a bit like a dandelion. And many dandelion look-a-likes grow in Australia. :)
 
Jondo Almondo
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Location: NNSW Australia
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Thanks for your interest.
I've spent a lot of time searching for the name to no avail.
I'm certain it's no dandelion or sow thistle as the plant produces leaves over a metre off the ground.

Its true that the fleshy stems are tastier/more-succulent/less-coarse than the tips of the leaves
Its so prolific that I frequently toss the tips and just use the base of the leaves.

What makes you sure it's not Lactuca?
I have a long list of reasons why it probably is; seed shape, seed longevity, shallow rooting habit, hollow angular stems, classic slightly-bitter white lactuca sap that stains brown, flower type, seed arrangement and calyx.

Its what I'd imagine Lactuca virosa would turn into if you grew it in isolation atop the himalayas for a few millenia.
 
Randy Mann
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Oh, goodness!  I didn't mean to imply I felt sure it isn't a lactuca.  It's just that I spent hours and hours looking at photographs of every lactuca I could find on-line or in books -- and none of 'em looked anything like it.  No, I'm not sure at all -- and, yes, the other characteristics are persuasive.  I dunno!  It's a mystery -- and it's a mystery I'd like (I suppose we'd both like) to solve.

Yes, Angelica, there are many d'lion look-a-likes in Oz + dandelions.  The seeds and some other features of our mystery plant are radically unlike d'lion though.

In any case, I'll keep looking and will, of course, post anything useful or definitive I find.

Best regards from the Atherton Tablelands,

Randy
 
Jondo Almondo
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Location: NNSW Australia
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No worries at all.
I take it from your earlier post that you cultivate this plant also.
Can I ask where you bought it from?

The nursery I purchased from is now only wholesaling ... and off-grid ... and their website is under-construction - or I'd ask where they sourced it from.

-
I'd like to add that lettuce is often used as a cooked vegetable in asia, I'm not sure you'd want to broil an iceberg, but the drier type of leaves on wild lettuce or tree lettuce make a reasonable spinach substitute - especially in omelettes or cheese and 'spinach' pastries where the fats dominate the flavor profile.
 
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Looks like maybe Shungiku or "edible chrysanthemum", Glebionis coronaria?
 
pollinator
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Location: South of Capricorn
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rabbit food preservation homestead
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I was thinking that the flowers and leaves looked a lot like shungiku-- but the taste is very distinctive, not bland. "piney", maybe? bolts very quickly, doesn't like heat?
 
Jondo Almondo
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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Flowers vaguely resemble shungiku, leaves are different and over a foot long.
The stems are very thick and quite distinctive. (1st pic, on the right)

Not piney tasting, everyone agrees that it's bland with a vague taste of grassiness.
Slow to bolt (seemingly impervious to bolting) and grows/sprouts throughout 40C summers (though it germinates more heavily through winter).
 
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