Cicerbita alpina

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Cicerbita alpina
Cicerbita alpina 2005.07.31 11.58.41.jpg
Cicerbita alpina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cichorieae
Genus: Cicerbita
Species: C. alpina
Binomial name
Cicerbita alpina
(L.) Wallr. 1822

Cicerbita alpina, commonly known as the alpine sow-thistle or alpine blue-sow-thistle[4] 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.[5] 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. All the florets are ray florets; there are no disc florets. The seeds are clothed in unbranched hairs. The flowering period extends from June to September in the temperate northern hemisphere.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Cicerbita alpina grows on many mountains of Europe (the Alps, the Pyrenees, the northern Apennines, the Scandinavian Peninsula, Scotland (where it is endangered and found in only four known locations), the Carpathians and the Urals.[7] 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.[6]


It became a protected species in the UK in 1975 under the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act.[8]


In Finland, this plant is known as "bear-hay" because the Eurasian brown bear feeds on it, as do elk and reindeer. People also sometimes make use of it and eat it raw or cooked in reindeer milk.[6]

Secondary metabolites[edit]

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.[9]


Flowers of Cicerbita alpina
Flower of Cicerbita alpina
Leaf of Cicerbita alpina


  1. ^ Collett, L. & Korpelainen, H. (2017). "Lactuca alpina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  2. ^ The International Plant Names Index
  3. ^ The Plant List, Lactuca alpina (L.) A.Gray
  4. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  5. ^ Flann, C (ed) 2009+ Global Compositae Checklist
  6. ^ a b c "Alpine Sowthistle". NatureGate. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Fusani, P; Zidorn, C (2010). "Phenolics and a sesquiterpene lactone in the edible shoots of Cicerbita alpina (L.) Wallroth". Journal of Food Composition and Analysis (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). 23: 658–663. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2009.08.014. ISSN 0889-1575.
  • Pignatti S. - Flora d'Italia - Edagricole – 1982. vol. III

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