Wild Carrot - Queen Annes Lace


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birds nest plantThe Wild Carrot (Daucus Carota) or Queen Annes Lace is one of many umbelliferous plants to be found growing around the world. Although the species name for this ferny plant with the elegant, white lacy flowers is "Daucus carota", the same one used for cultivated carrots it is not the same plant. As a member of the carrot family it has a long taproot and lacy leaves. Dig up and crush a Wild Carrot root and you will find that it smells just like a carrot.

It is yellowish in colour, spindle-shaped, slender, firm and woody; a pernicious weed in some areas. It is edible when young but the root (especially the centre) soon gets tough and woody due to the high content of xylem tissue. The domestic carrot is a genetic variant that lacks most of this tissue.

The wild carrot has finely divided leaves like that of the domesticated carrot. The leaves, petioles and flower stems may be densely hairy or have no hair. The leaves on the stem are arranged alternately. Flowering wild carrot may grow four feet tall. At the end of the stem is a primary umbel (seedhead) made up of numerous individual white flowers and possibly a purple flower in the center together with drooping, narrow bracts on the underside . Plants also may have many secondary umbels produced at any node on the stem below the primary umbel.

Each flower on the umbel produces two seeds. After seed set, the umbel closes upward. Once the seeds have turned brown, they are mature. The roots of wild carrot are typically white. The characteristic odour of carrot is present when any part of the plant is crushed.

Spent umbels curl inwards forming a depressed cup. The fruits are covered in hooked spines, which aid dispersal by clinging to the fur of passing animals. Flowering period (in England) is from June to August and the native biennial can reach a height of 90 centimetres.

Wild Carrot is also known as Queen Anne's Lace, Birds Nest Weed, Bees Nest, Devils Plague, garden carrot, Bird's Nest Root, Fools Parsley, Lace Flower, Rantipole, Herbe a dinde and Yarkuki. Herbe a dinde derives from its use as a feed for young turkeys-dinde.

"Daucus" comes from daukos, name given by the Greeks to some members of the the Umbelliferae family and it seems to derive from "dao" : I overheat . Carota means carrot in Latin.

Take a look at some great wild carrot photos. Click here.

Photo supplied by Brad Fiero Dept. of Biology Pima Community College Tucson, ArizonaQueen Annes Lace is the wild progenitor of the domesticated carrot. Although native to the Old World, these white lacy umbels are a familiar sight in the United States and Canada. The medicinal properties of Queen Annes Lace are many. More detail is given below. Its seeds may be collected, dried and used for tea. It is interesting to note that this plant is the closest living relative (on the basis of family and medicinal activity) to Silphion, which was picked and used by the Romans as a culinary spice and contraceptive until it became extinct in the first century AD. Apparently it was extremely effective. Supposedly Nero was given the last remaining root.

In the late 1980s scientists began studying Queen Annes Lace and found that (in mice at least) it blocked the production of progesterone and inhibited fetal and ovarian growth. Check out the contraception page of the Museum.

Queen Anne's Lace is quite an aggressive plant. It is a biennial, so lives only 2 years, thus never forms a big root mass like daisies or other perennial wildflowers. However, it is such a prolific seeder, it does spread rapidly, and is almost impossible to eradicate. It is an alien, but one of the ones that's been in the US since colonial times. It came across the ocean in sacks of grain, probably with the Pilgrims. It's now established in every State. It's beautiful in the wildflower meadow I am not so sure in the garden.

If you want to plant it, easiest way is to gather a handful of the seeds from a plant dying down in the fall. They seem to be everywhere. But there is also another option. Try an annual named Ammi majus. It's the flower common in the cut flower trade as "Queen Anne's Lace", and is also sometimes called "Bishop's Flower." The two look very similar, but the latter doesn't last in your soil forever as Daucus does.

Seeds are available from the Clyde Robin seed company. Click here.

Today, in some parts of rural United States, this herb is used as a sort of morning-after contraceptive by women who drink a teaspoonful of the seeds with a glass of water immediately after sex. The seeds are also used for the prevention and washing out of gravel and urinary stones. As they are high in volatile oil, some find them soothing to the digestive system, useful for colic and flatulence. Be very, very sure that if you do decide to harvest any part of Queen Annes Lace for consumption that you have the correct plant. It is similar to Hemlock (Conium maculatum), a herb which was used medicinally but is now seldom used because of its high toxicity.

Wild Carrot Areas of the World The Wild Carrot is still very much prevalent, particularly in the US where it was introduced from Europe and is the genetic source of edible carrots. Wild Carrot is found in sandy or gravelly soils and in wets areas. It is abundant west of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington where it is classed as a Class C noxious weed. Wild Carrot causes problems in pastures, hay fields, Christmas tree farms, grass seed fields and most other open areas that are not tilled annually. It is an especially serious threat in areas where carrot seed is produced because it hybridizes with the crop and ruins the seed.

wild carrot and rosette Wild Carrot is easy to grow, it prefers a sunny position and a well-drained neutral to alkaline soil. Considered an obnoxious weed by some, it can spread very quickly. Its root is small and spindle shaped, whitish, slender and hard, (tender when young), but soon gets tough, with a strong aromatic smell. Harvest entire plant in July or when flowers bloom, and dry for later herb use. Collect edible roots and shoots in spring when tender. Gather seed in autumn (the fall).

There is no record of wild carrot toxicity in the US but in Europe wild carrot has been known to be mildly toxic to horses and cattle. A high concentration of wild carrot in hay is potentially a problem because livestock eat hay less selectively than green forage. Sheep appear to graze wild carrot without any harmful effect. Find out about some of the myths as to why Queen Annes Lace is so called click here.

wild carrot plantThis plant is a biennial which grows, in its second year, from a taproot (the carrot) to a height of two to four feet. The stems are erect and branched; both stems and leaves are covered with short coarse hairs.

The leaves are very finely divided; the botanical term is tri-pinnate. When a leaf is composed of a number of lateral leaflets, it is said to be pinnate or feather-like; and when these lateral divisions are themselves pinnated, it is said to be bi-pinnate, or twice-feathered. The leaves of this plant are like that but some of the lower leaves are still more divided and become tri-pinnate. The lower leaves are considerably larger than the upper ones, and their arrangement on the main stem is alternate. All of these leaves embrace the stem with a sheathing base.

wild carrot flowerThe attractive two to four inch "flower" is actually a compound inflorescence made up of many small flowers. The umbels of the flowers are terminal and composed of many rays. The flowers themselves are very small, but from their whiteness and number, present a very conspicuous appearance. The central flower of each umbel is often purple.

During the flowering period the head is nearly flat or slightly convex, but as the seeds ripen the form becomes very cup-like; hence one of the popular names for this plant is "bird's nest." The seeds are covered with numerous little bristles arranged in five rows. For more photos click here.

Extreme caution must be used when collecting wild carrots; they closely resemble poisonous water hemlock (cicuta maculata), poison hemlock (conium maculatum) and fool's parsley (aethusa cynapium), all of which can be deadly. It was poison hemlock, that Socrates was compelled to take. Fortunately, there is a simple way to tell the difference.
Both poison hemlock and fool's parsley smell nasty; just roll some leaves between your thumb and forefinger, and smell.

Wild carrot, especially the root, smells like (you guessed it) carrots. Also, the stem of the wild carrot is hairy, and the stem of poison hemlock is smooth.

The first year leaves of the carrot on the left and the leaves of Hemlock on the right.

Queen Anne's Lace is also considered toxic. The leaves contain furocoumarins that may cause allergic contact dermatitis from the leaves, especially when wet. Later exposure to the sun may cause mild photodermatitis. Carrot seed is also an early abortifacient, historically, sometimes used as a natural "morning after" tea.
Check out the contraceptive properties click here.

Why is Queen Anne's Lace so called

The common name Wild Carrot was given by William Turner in 1548. Queen Anne's Lace is an American name, but it also refers to a plant in England, cow parsley - anthriscus sylvestris. The popular title of the Wild Carrot "Queen Anne's Lace" comes from several sources none of which is definitive. The most popular fables are set out below.

Queen Anne of Great Britain, second daughter of James II, by his first wife, Anne Hyde, was born in 1664 and was married to Prince George of Denmark in 1683. She succeeded to the crown on the death of William III., 1702. Her reign is marked by the great war of the Spanish Succession and the achievements of Marlborough, the accomplishment of the legislative union of Scotland with England, and the dashing exploits of lord Peterborough in Spain. The contention of parties during the reign of Anne was extremely violent, in consequence of the hopes entertained by the Jacobites that she would be induced by natural feelings to favour the succession of her brother, the Pretender. Her reign was also distinguished for the number of eminent writers who then flourished, several of whom rose to high stations. She died in, 1714, aged 50.

queen anne's lace There are several anecdotes as to why the Carrot Flower is named the Queen Annes Lace.

Queen Anne's Lace: so called because one tiny purplish floret in the centre is the queen. The white florets make up her lace collar.

2. One fable associated with the name of this plant describes the occasion of Queen Anne of England (1655-1714) pricking her finger while making lace, staining the lace with blood. If you look closely, you'll notice that each large "flower" has many small white florets with a reddish/purple dot in the middle.

3. English botanist Geoffrey Grigson suggests that the name of the plant comes not from a Queen of England but from Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of lacemakers.

4. The origin of the name is reputed to be based upon an English legend. Supposedly, when the future Queen Anne arrived from Denmark to became the queen of King James I of England, wild carrot was still a novelty in the royal gardens. The legend states that Queen Anne challenged the ladies in waiting to a contest to see who could produce a pattern of lace as fine and lovely as the flower of the wild carrot. The ladies knew that no one could rival the queen's handiwork so it became a triumph for Anne.

5. Queen Anne's Lace is also known as Mother Die, because if you brought it into your house, according to superstition, your mother would die.

6 The white clusters apparently reminded the British of Queen Anne's lace headdress.

For more Queen Annes Lace photos click here.   For Carrot Weed photos try here.

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

18 large Queen Anne's lace heads
4 Cups water
1/4 Cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 Package powdered pectin
3 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp. sugar

Bring water to boil.  Remove from heat.  Add flower heads (push them down into the water).  Cover and steep 30 mins.  Strain.

Measure 3 Cups liquid into 4-6 quart pan.  Add lemon juice and pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly.  Add sugar and stir constantly.  Cook and stir until mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Boil one minute longer, then remove from heat.

Add color (pink) if desired.  Skim.  Pour into jars leaving 1/4" head space.  Process in hot water bath for 5 mins.

Makes about 6 jars.

Queen Annes Lace Paper

Yes you can make paper out of wild carrot roots.  Check out "Making Paper from Plants".

Wild Carrot Cake
From The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook

Wild carrots are especially good in carrot cake because they provide more flavour than commercial carrots do, and they're still crunchy after cooking.

Unlike the usual cakes, in this recipe you add the icing before you bake the cake.

Two 19-ounce packages silken tofu, drained
3/4 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons arrowroot or kudzu
2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon almond oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon liquid stevia or 2 tablespoons honey, barley malt, or rice syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups (19 ounces) sweet brown rice flour and 4 cups (1 pound) oat flour, or 35 ounces any whole-grain flour
1 cup arrowroot or kudzu
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly ground flaxseeds (6 tablespoons seeds)
2 teaspoons freshly ground star anise
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons apple juice
1 cup corn oil or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 cup lecithin granules
2 teaspoon liquid stevia
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups wild carrot taproots, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. To make the icing: In a food processor, combine the icing ingredients and process until smooth.

3. To make the cake: Mix together the flour, arrowroot, ground flaxseed, spices, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.

4. In a blender, combine the apple juice, corn oil, lime juice, lecithin granules, and liquid stevia and process until smooth. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Stir in the raisins and grated wild carrots.

5. Divide the batter evenly between 2 oiled 12-inch round cake pans. Pour the icing over the cake batter in each pan. Bake the cakes until the bottom of each one is lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Let the cakes cool on wire racks before serving.


Chemical constituents and their activities

This way long list of chemical constituents and their activities, contained in Wild Carrot is brought to you courtesy of Dr. James A. Duke at the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.

Acetone, acetyl-choline, alpha-linolenic-acid, alpha-pinene, alpha-tocopherol, apigenin, arachidonic-acid, arginine, asarone, ascorbic-acid, bergapten, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, caffeic-acid, camphor, chlorogenic-acid, chlorophyll, chrysin, citral, citric-acid, coumarin, elemicin, esculetin, ethanol, eugenol, falcarinol, ferulic-acid, folacin, formic-acid, fructose, gamma-linolenic-acid, geraniol, glutamine, glycine, hcn, histidine, kaempferol, lecithin, limonene, linoleic-acid, lithium, lupeol, lutein, luteolin, lycopene, magnesium, manganese, methionine, mufa, myrcene, myricetin, myristicin, niacin, oleic-acid, pantothenic-acid, pectin, phenylalanine, potassium, psoralen, quercetin, scopoletin, stigmasterol, sucrose, terpinen-4-ol, thiamin, tryptophan, tyrosine, umbelliferone, xanthotoxin, and a slew of other Vitamins and minerals.

These constituents are known to have these activities:

Analgesic, Antiarthritic, Antidepressant, Antipsychotic, Antischizophrenic, Antidote, Antiinflammatory, Antibacterial, Anticonvulsant, Antidiabetic, Antiestrogenic, Antiflu, Antihistaminic, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Antiepileptic, Antianxiety, Antistress, AntiPMS, Antihangover, Antiviral, Cancer-Preventive, Expectorant, Fungistat, Immunostimulant, MAO-Inhibitor, Sedative, Tranquilizer, Aphrodisiac, Sweetener, Pituitary-Stimulant, and more.

Ongoing studies are proving this to be a very valuable plant, useful in many areas of alternative medicine, a few are Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, Infertility, Asthma-preventive, most types of cancer, Diabetes, Leukaemia, HIV, Spina-bifida, Migraine headache, obesity, and much more, even the common cold. Used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years as an abortifactint, anthelmintic, carminative, contraceptive, deobstruent, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, ophthalmic, and stimulant. A medicinal infusion is used in the treatment of various complaints including digestive disorders, (soothes the digestive tract), kidney and bladder diseases and in the treatment of dropsy, it supports the liver, stimulates the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys.

queen annes laceA wonderfully cleansing medicinal herb, an infusion of the leaves has been used to counter cystitis and kidney stone formation, and to diminish stones that have already formed. The seeds can be used as a settling carminative agent for the relief of flatulence and colic. Wild Carrot leaves contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones, and stimulates the uterus.

The plant is also used to encourage delayed menstruation, can induce uterine contractions and so should not be used by pregnant women.

The seed is a traditional 'morning after' contraceptive and there is some evidence to uphold this belief. An essential oil obtained from the seed has also been used cosmetically in anti-wrinkle creams. A strong decoction of the seeds and root make a very good insecticide.


Methods of Control

Wild carrot control falls into three categories cultural, such as crop rotation; mechanical, such as tillage or mowing; and chemical, using herbicides.

Control of wild carrot may require a combination of these methods. The biology of wild carrot is a critical consideration in preventing or controlling wild carrot infestations. The ultimate goal of controlling wild carrot, regardless of the method, should be to prevent seed production because seeds are the only means of reproduction and are short-lived in the soil.
Environmental implications should be considered when choosing a method of control.

Cultural Control

Crop rotation in combination with other methods is the best strategy for control of wild carrot. Including fall-planted cereals such as wheat into a crop rotation can be very helpful in reducing wild carrot infestations. Wheat will prevent or greatly reduce wild carrot seed production because wheat harvest occurs when wild carrot plants are flowering but before seed production has occurred. This reduction in seed production will reduce the number of overwintered plants in the field two years later.

Mechanical Control

Tillage effectively and consistently controls wild carrot. The entire field can be tilled or tillage can be limited to the perimeter of the field as a preventive control measure. Mowing wheat stubble to four inches in late August will cut off any new flowering wild carrot and stop seed production. This practice also reduces seed production by other weeds, and herbicide applications in early October can be made with no barrier to spray coverage. Mowing rather than applying herbicides for control of wild carrot in non-crop areas, such as roadsides and fence rows, will help prevent development of herbicide resistance. To control wild carrot in non-crop areas or pastures, mow as close to the ground as possible when 75% of the population has begun flowering.

Chemical Control

Wild carrot may be controlled by herbicides at three stages of growth: overwintered plants with early pre-plant, pre-emergence or post--emergence herbicide applications; established plants with fall herbicide applications; and seedlings with pre-emergence or post-emergence herbicide applications. Overwintered and established plants are generally more difficult to control than seedlings.

Life Cycle of Wild Carrot

Wild carrot is a biennial weed. The life cycle of a biennial weed requires two years to complete. During the first year, the plant will emerge and grow as a rosette, producing only leaves. During the second year, a stem will emerge and the plant will flower and set seed. The emergence of the flower stem is called bolting. Once a biennial plant has set seed, it will die and no longer be a problem, though many seeds were produced that may germinate and form new plants in the future. Biennial weeds are characterized as having large diameter taproots to store the food needed to begin growth after winter and to produce a flower stem. Biennial weeds usually reproduce only by seed and not by vegetative structures such as rhizomes or perennial roots. Wild carrot typically over winters in the rosette stage.

Biology of Wild Carrot

The appearance of individual wild carrot plants within a population and their response to herbicides are highly variable. Wild carrot may not always act as a biennial weed. Plants may complete their life cycle in one to three or more years, depending on the habitat in which the plants are growing. Seedlings of wild carrot may emerge as early as April and continue to emerge until mid-October, if favorable conditions exist. Seeds require large amounts of water to initiate germinations.

Most seeds germinate within two years of dispersal, but they may persist in the soil for up to seven years. Wild carrot may begin to produce leaves after the winter as early as March with favourable weather conditions. Root size determines if a plant will flower and set seed in the first or the second year following emergence or later. For the majority of plants in the population to survive the winter, the root crown diameter must be at least 1/8 inch. For the majority of plants in the population to begin flowering, the root crown diameter must be at least 1/2 inch. Wild carrot may begin to bolt as early as the beginning of June and flower as early as the end of June.

Flowering will continue through August for these plants, but other plants in the population may flower until the first frost. If plants are cut after flowering begins, they may produce a new bolt from below the cut, but flowering and seed set will be delayed and seed production greatly reduced. Cross-fertilization by many insect species is the major method of fertilization, but self-fertilization may occur. If a seed has reached maximum size at the time of a frost and is still green, then the seed may still be viable because of a process called after-ripening.

Queen Annes Lace is used in rituals and spells for increased fertility in women and for men to increase potency and sexual desire!

Queen Annes Lace is the official Howard County's flower, designated as such on September 4th, 1984.cross carrots

An Old English superstition is that the small purple flower in the centre of the Wild Carrot was of benefit in curing epilepsy.

Please note some of the information in this page is taken from a copyrighted article by the author, Carla Allen, who has kindly given The World Carrot Museum permission to publish it on this website. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of Carla Allen is strictly forbidden.

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