Wild Lactuca Species in North America

  • A. LebedaEmail author
  • E. Křístková
  • I. Doležalová
  • M. Kitner
  • M. P. Widrlechner


This chapter presents a brief history of the uses of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and its wild North American relatives and reviews the agricultural importance of lettuce and challenges in its cultivation, in relation to nutritional quality, diseases, pests, and edaphic and climatic limitations. The evolution and taxonomy of the genus Lactuca are presented, with a primary focus on the wild Lactuca species of North America, their characterization, biogeography and distribution, habitat ecology, and genepools. Specific examples of phenotypic variability, genetic diversity, and disease resistance of wild Lactuca taxa from both published reports and recent evaluations conducted in our laboratory are also presented. The past (and future) exploitation of wild Lactuca relatives in lettuce breeding is examined and discussed in the broader context of crop improvement. The current status of in situ and ex situ conservation of wild and weedy North American Lactuca is reviewed, along with recommendations on how these genetic resources could be better conserved and utilized.


Wild lettuce Genetic resources Taxonomy Biogeography Genetic diversity Conservation 



Aleš Lebeda, Eva Křístková, and Miloslav Kitner were supported by the Internal Granting Agency of Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic (IGA_Prf_2017001, and IGA_Prf_2018001), Project MSM 6198959215 (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Czech Republic). Ivana Doležalová was supported by grant LO1204 (Sustainable Development of Research in the Centre of the Region Haná) from the National Program of Sustainability I. (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Czech Republic).

Aleš Lebeda acknowledges his long-lasting friendship with, and support from, E.J. Ryder (USDA Salinas, CA) and R.W. Robinson (Cornell University, Geneva, NY) and their help in introducing him to lettuce breeding and cultivation in the USA. E.J. Ryder is acknowledged for some valuable comments to the early draft of this chapter. Mark P. Widrlechner acknowledges the help of Kelly Kindscher in locating information about the traditional uses of wild Lactuca and of those colleagues listed in the photo credits who freely shared their images.

The authors collectively acknowledge the assistance of Barbara Hellier and Peter Bretting (both USDA and ARS) for sharing information about the conservation of vegetable and, more specifically, Lactuca germplasm in the USA. The support of the breeding company Rijk Zwaan Breeding BV (the Netherlands) is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Lebeda
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Křístková
    • 1
  • I. Doležalová
    • 2
  • M. Kitner
    • 1
  • M. P. Widrlechner
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Botany, Faculty of SciencePalacký University in OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Genetic Resources for VegetablesMedicinal and Special Plants of Crop Research Institute in OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic
  3. 3.Departments of Horticulture and of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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