Expeditions were conducted in the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and United Kingdom in 2001 (partly 1998) to study Lactuca serriola L. (prickly lettuce, compass plant) geographic distribution, ecology, habitat characteristics and occurrence of diseases and pests on this species. During these missions the seed material of L. serriola L. was collected in an east¿west transect of these four countries. The European transect where seeds were collected and field observations were made represents a relatively large area between 2°34¿50¿¿ W¿17°32¿46¿¿ E and 47°40¿42¿¿¿54°04¿19¿¿ N. The seed material was used for regeneration, inclusion in the national genetic resources collections of individual countries and for research purposes in follow-up studies. During the missions, 50 locations with occurrence of L. serriola L. were visited (16 in Czech Republic and Germany, 10 in UK and 8 in the Netherlands). Individual seed lots of sixteen different plants were collected at each location (L. serriola L. population). Thus, in total 800 seed samples were collected. In Czech Republic and Germany L. serriola L. f. serriola dominated in all observed populations, in the Netherlands both f. serriola and f. integrifolia occurred in pure or mixed stands, whereas in the United Kingdom L. serriola L. f. integrifolia (S.F. Gray) S.D. Prince et R.N. Carter was dominant. L. serriola L. was recorded at various altitudes (¿4 to 410 m), different habitats (ditches, along roads, fields and field margins, ruderal places, pavements and parking sites, fallow fields), individual populations varied substantially in size (20 to >1000 plants), area covered (25¿10,000 m2), and the structure and character of associated plant communities. Natural infections by downy mildew (Bremia lactucae Regel) and powdery mildew (Golovinomyces cichoracearum (DC.) V.P. Gelyuta) were observed in some populations. B. lactucae Regel was recorded only in Czech Republic, G. cichoracearum (DC.) V.P. Gelyuta was more common in continental Europe. General and specific aspects of L. serriola L. geographic distribution and ecology are discussed.