Valerianella locusta var. oleracea

Images: ©Jouko Lehmuskallio

Corn Salad

Valerianella locusta

  • Name also: Lamb’s Lettuce, Common Cornsalad, Corn-salad
  • Family: Honeysuckle Family – Caprifoliaceae
    (formerly Valerian Family – Valerianaceae)
  • Growing form: Annual herb.
  • Height: 5–20 cm (2–8 in.). Stem ascending, branching from half-way, 4-edged, glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla regular or slightly unequal, pale blue–white, approx. 1–2 mm (0.04–0.08 in.) broad, fused, funnel-shaped, 5-lobed. Calyx small. Stamens 3. Gynoecium composed of 3 fused carpels. Inflorescence a dense, umbellate, compound cyme.
  • Leaves: Basal rosette and opposite on stem, stalkless. Blade spatulate–long, with entire margins (stem-leaves sometimes sparsely toothed).
  • Fruit: Round, slightly flattened, 3-grooved, glabrous (sometimes sparsely haired), yellowish, 1.5–2.5 mm (0.06–0.1 in.) long achene.
  • Habitat: Sea-shore meadows, kelp banks, narrow coastal meadow-strips located on cliffs, railway yards. Also cultivated.
  • Flowering time: May–June.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened.

Corn salad’s year begins in the autumn, when the seeds germinate and quickly develop small over-wintering leaf rosettes. The following spring the development happens so fast that the flower blooms already in May. Its small, light blue flowers are mainly self-pollinating, but sometimes insects visit their minimal nectar store too and at the same time deliver pollen from one flower to another. The fruits ripen at the beginning of high summer and float to new habitats with the aid of an air pocket.

Corn salad’s habitat in Finland is very compact and is concentrated on the Åland Islands. On the mainland it can be found in the south-west on the southern shore of Kemiö and other nearby islands. At the northern limit of its habitat, this annual is affected by natural climatic factors and variations in the stands can be large, and the plant can even go missing completely. Corn salad stands can also be naturally short-lived and appear in a slightly different place each year. On the other hand the species has become rarer partly as a consequence of its habitat becoming overgrown. Corn salad only grows wild in Finland by the shore, but further south it also grows in fields, gardens, dumps and similar places that have been created by people. In Finland too it can grow casually as far north as Oulu. In central Europe corn salad is commonly cultivated as a winter salad whose overwintering leaves can be picked right up to the beginning of May. The species would grow in Finnish vegetable gardens too, but the seeds are not widely available.

Apart from corn salad, narrow-fruited cornsalad (V. dentata) also grows casually in Finland. The species flowers later in the summer and its flowers are reddish white.

Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family
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