Tall White Lettuce - Bootts Rattlesnake-Root
Nabalus altissimus - (Linnaeus) Hook
Asteraceae (Composite Sunflower) Family
This is a tall, upright, smooth biennial. Its preferred habitat is mixed woods, rocky slopes and open meadows. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
The leaves are alternate on the stem, consisting of one whole part, toothed and dissected or palm-like lobes on the lower stem. Upper leaves are nearly sessile while the lower leaves have stalks. The upper leaves are dark green and the lower leaves may be darker and occasionally purple.
The flowers are panicle-like with drooping heads. The flowers are yellowish; 9 to 10 or more heads per bundle. The involucre (a whorl of separate or fused leaves or bracts subtending an inflorescence or a single flower) are green to purplish. Flowers occur in autumn.
Fruit is achene.
The name Rattlesnake-root suggests the plant was used as a remedy for snakebite. A bitter tonic was made from the roots and thought useful in treating dysentery. This is one of several species of Rattlesnake-roots, all of which have drooping flower heads, distinctly lobed leaves, and milky juice. Lions Foot (P. serpentaria) is similar but has white bristles on its fruit and the stem lacks bloom. Gall-of-the-earth (P. trifolioliata) has very deeply divided 3-part leaves and a waxy reddish stem. Tall White Lettuce (P. altissima) has only 5 main bracts surrounding the flower heads. Smooth White Lettuce (P. racemosa) has pinkish flowers in a spike, clasping elongated leaves, and yellow bristles.