Cicerbita alpina, commonly known as the Alpine Sow-thistle or Alpine Blue-sow-thistle is a perennial herbaceous species of plant sometimes placed in the genus Cicerbita of the Asteraceae family, and sometimes placed in the genus Lactuca as Lactuca alpina. It is native to upland and mountainous parts of Europe.
Cicerbita alpina on average reaches 80 centimetres (31 in) in height, with a minimum height of 50 cm (20 in) and a maximum height of 150 cm (59 in). The stem is erect and usually unbranched. It has glandular hairs and contains a white milky juice, a kind of latex. The alternate leaves are broad, triangular and clasping the stem, bluish-grey beneath, hairy along the veins and with toothed margins. The inflorescence is a panicle. Each composite flower is about 2.5 cm (1 in) wide and is set within a whorl of bracts. The individual blue-violet florets are tongue-like with a toothed, truncated tip, each having five stamens and a fused carpel. The seeds are clothed in unbranched hairs. The flowering period extends from June to September.
Distribution and habitat
Cicerbita alpina grows on all the mountains of Europe (the Alps, the Pyrenees, the northern Apennines, the Scandinavian Peninsula, Scotland (where it is endangered and found in only four locations), the Carpathians and the Urals. These plants can be found in alpine woods, besides streams, in rich-soil in hollows and in tall meadows, usually between 1,000 and 1,800 metres (3,300 and 5,900 ft) above sea level.
The edible shoots of Cicerbita alpina contain 8-O-Acetyl-15-beta-D-glucopyranosyllactucin, which causes the bitter taste of the vegetable, and caffeic acid derivatives chlorogenic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, caffeoyltartaric acid, and cichoric acid.
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