From May through October, Daucus carota, also known as wild carrot, Queen Anne’s lace, or bird’s nest is common along roadsides, pastures, banks of streams, tops of bluffs, fencerows, and open, disturbed areas in most counties in Missouri, as well as most of the United States. Wild carrot was introduced from Eurasia and naturalized in North America. Although the edible carrot has been derived from the wild type, it has an invasive or noxious weed designation in several states. In fact, the domesticated carrot can revert to the wild type soon after it escapes cultivation and seedling plants are produced. The strong taproot contributes to the longevity and pervasiveness of the plants.
Queen Anne’s lace is a biennial plant that generally produces a rosette of fernlike leaves the first year. During the second year, hairy flowering stems produce the manyflowered umbellets that resemble lace. In some types, the center of the umbellets is red. According to folk history, the red pigment represents a droplet of blood where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when making lace. Other color mutants of Queen Anne’s lace have been named as forms, such those with pink to purple flowers (Daucus carota f. roseus) and those with all white umbellets (f. epurpuratus). When the bristly fruits are ripe, they easily hook onto passing animals. In some parts of North America, fruits are consumed by the ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, cotton rat, pine mouse, and the Townsend mole.
Historically, Queen Anne’s lace has had many uses. An extract from the root has been used as a yellow coloring for butter and oil from the seeds is used in perfumes. According to a U.S. Pharmacopoeia listing from 1880 to 1882, wild carrot seeds were used as a diuretic, stimulant, and menstrual excitant. As a folk medicine, seeds have also been used as an aphrodisiac and a contraceptive, as well as a treatment for chronic dysentery and kidney ailments. The root has been used to treat jaundice and threadworm, as well as tumors and various forms of cancer. The Mohegan Indians steeped the flowers to produce a treatment for diabetes. Crow Indians used the plant in ceremonial activities.
More recently, Queen Anne’s lace was used as a fresh cut flower or dried in floral arrangements in the 1940’s through 1970’s. However, handling wet foliage can cause skin irritation. Plants produce furanocoumarins which can cause phototoxic dermatitis in some cases. Sensitized photosensitive individuals can get an exact pattern of the foliage on the skin by placing a leaf on the skin and exposing the tissue to direct sunlight for a period of time.
As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Is wild carrot a beauty or a beast?
REVISED: September 29, 2015