|The umbel of a wild carrot|
Daucus carota, whose common names include wild carrot, bird's nest, bishop's lace, and Queen Anne's lace (North America), is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia and naturalized to North America and Australia. Domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies, Daucus carota subsp. sativus.
The wild carrot is a herbaceous, somewhat variable biennial plant that grows between 1 and 2 feet (0.3 and 0.6 m) tall, roughly hairy, with a stiff solid stem. The leaves are tri-pinnate, finely divided and lacy, overall triangular in shape. The flowers are small and dull white, clustered in flat, dense umbels. They may be pink in bud and there may be a reddish flower in the centre of the umbel. The lower bracts are three-forked or pinnate, a fact which distinguishes the plant from other white-flowered umbellifers. As the seeds develop, the umbel curls up at the edges, becomes more congested, and develops a concave surface. The fruits are oval and flattened, with short styles and hooked spines. The dried umbels detach from the plant, becoming tumbleweeds.
Similar in appearance to the deadly poison hemlock, D. carota is distinguished by a mix of tri-pinnate leaves, fine hairs on its solid green stems and on its leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in the centre of the umbel.
Like the cultivated carrot, the D. carota root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume.
Extra caution should be used when collecting D. carota because it bears a close resemblance to poison hemlock. In addition, the leaves of the wild carrot can cause phytophotodermatitis, so caution should also be used when handling the plant.
If used as a dyestuff, the flowers give a creamy, off-white color.
Folk-medicine holds that an infusion of the seeds will inhibit pregnancy.
D. carota, when freshly cut, will draw or change color depending on the color of the water in which it is held. Note that this effect is only visible on the "head" or flower of the plant. Carnations also exhibit this effect. This occurrence is a popular science demonstration in primary grade school.
This beneficial weed can be used as a companion plant to crops. Like most members of the umbellifer family, it attracts wasps to its small flowers in its native land; however, where it has been introduced, it attracts only very few of such wasps. This species is also documented to boost tomato plant production when kept nearby, and it can provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce, when intercropped with it.
Queen Anne's lace
D. carota was introduced and naturalised in North America, where it is often known as "Queen Anne's lace". Both Anne, Queen of Great Britain, and her great grandmother Anne of Denmark are taken to be the Queen Anne for which the plant is named. It is so called because the flower resembles lace; the red flower in the center is thought to represent a blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was making the lace. The function of the tiny red flower, coloured by anthocyanin, is to attract insects.
- Daucus abyssinicus C.A. Mey.
- Daucus carota convar. afganicus Setchkarev
- Daucus carota convar. sativus Setchkarev
- Daucus carota L. subsp. sativus (Hoffm.) Thell.
- Daucus carota L. var. atrorubens Alef.
- Daucus carota L. var. sativus DC.
- Daucus carota L. var. sativus Hoffm.
- Daucus carota var. sativus Hoffm.
- Daucus gingidium L.
- Daucus sativa (Hoffm.) Pass.
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- Noxious weeds: Poison-hemlock, King County, Washington
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