Valerianella olitoria (L.) Poll. - Corn salad, Lamb's Lettuce

Valerianella olitoria plant

Family - Valerianaceae

Stems - Multiple from the base, dichotomously branching, erect, to +20cm tall, herbaceous, from a single thin taproot and fibrous roots, retrorse pubescent, 4-angled. Internodes with shallow thin vertical grooves arising at the leaf bases.

Valerianella olitoria stem

Leaves - Basal leaves in a rosette, spatulate, to +8cm long, 2cm broad. entire, glabrous or with very sparse appressed pubescence, rounded at the apex. Cauline leaves opposite, sessile, lanceolate to lance-oblong, reduced upward, rounded at the apex, entire or with a few coarse basal teeth, glabrous.

Valerianella olitoria leaves

Inflorescence - Terminal involucrate cymose clusters of flowers. Bracts of the involucre glabrous but strigose-ciliate on the apical margins, often reddish on the apical margins in strong sun, oblong, quite small in flower but quickly expanding to +/-3mm long, 1-1.5mm broad, 2 per each flower. Flowers sessile.

Flowers - Corolla light blue (typically) to whitish, funnelform, glabrous, 5-lobed. Corolla tube to 1mm long. Lobes spreading, rounded at the apex, .75mm long, .6mm broad. Stamens 2-3, adnate at the apex of the corolla tube, included to slightly exserted. Filaments glabrous, .8mm long, translucent-blue. Ovary inferior, 3-locular, green, expanded at the apex on one side, very sparse pubescent in flower, 1mm long in flower, quickly inflating in fruit to +2mm long.

Valerianella olitoria flowers

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Waste ground, disturbed areas, borders of fields, roadsides.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Other info. - This little species has only been reported in a couple of southern Missouri counties. The plant is edible and is widely cultivated in Europe and elsewhere. It is not to common as a food crop in the United States.
V. olitoria can be identified by its small size, small bluish flowers, opposite leaves, and retrorse pubescent stems.
A synonym is V. locusta (L.) Laterr.

Photographs taken off Hwy 29, Boone County, NC., 4-20-03.


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