Varieties: There are two: Var. sativa (some listing have 'sativus') where the taproot is thickened and elongate, fleshy, reddish-yellow to yellow. This is the common edible carrot. The second is var. carota where the taproot is slender, branched, woody, not fleshy and of various color - some are found white, others brown, depending on the part of the world where it grows. The text here is more specific to var. carota.
Queen Anne's Lace is an erect introduced biennial forb growing on stout hairy veined and hollow stems from 1 to 5 feet high. The first year the plant produces a leafy rosette, the second year the flower stem appears. Stems may branch a little to a lot in the upper section.
The leaves are oblong and feathery. The basal and lower stem leaves are 2 to 3 pinnate with the divided segments delta shaped and either lobed or finely divided. Upper stem leaves are alternate, smaller and less divided. Leaflets can have sparse hair on the underside of the mid-rib and the leaf stalks likewise. Lower leaves are stalked with the stalk widening out below the last leaflet pair to form a sheath and slightly clasp the stem. The upper side of the leaf stalk has a shallow but wide groove. Margins can be roughly hairy. Damaged foliage has the aroma of carrot.
The inflorescence is a large compound umbel, one or several, atop the stems, up to 5 inches wide, long stalked and almost flat-topped, caused by the numerous smaller umbellets having stalks of different lengths. Umbel stalks and umbellet stalks are hairy. The umbel has very conspicuous bracts which are pinnately lobed. Each umbellet also has 5 to 7 bracts but they may have small lobes only or may be toothed. All have fine hair. The inflorescence begins as a concave structure - like a bowl - and then expands and flattens.
The Flowers are 5-parted, small, usually white petals, sometimes yellowish or pinkish. The petals are irregular, 2 very small, 3 larger. The larger petals are rounded and unequally 2-lobed, narrowing to the base. The calyx, if visible is 5-lobed, but it will be obscure on many flowers. There are five stamens that have white filaments and anthers; one pistil from a 2-chambered bristly ovary, 2 styles rising from a whitish-green central enlargement that sits atop the ovary and supports the styles. This is called a 'stylopodium' and is common in the Apiaceae family. There is usually one flower in the central umbellet that is purple. Flowers are not fragrant.
Fruit: Fertilized flowers produce a dry dark-brown to purplish seed that is in two halves, which eventually split apart (this is called a schizocarp). The seed is 2 to 4 mm long, ovate but compressed where they join, bristly, with 10 winged ribs. At this stage the umbel begins to close up again, resembling the bowl-like or hollow cup structure of its beginning.
Habitat: Queen Anne's Lace occupies disturbed sites, particularly roadsides, where soil conditions can be poor to good, moisture mesic to dry, but sunny. It grows from a taproot that is slender, woody and branching depending.
Names: The genus name Daucus is the Latin name for carrot. The species carota is a variant of the Greek karŏtŏn, again, referring to the carrot. The author name for the plant classification - 'L.' refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. Mrs. Grieve writes (Ref. #7) that it was Galen (2nd century CE) who added the name Daucus to distinguish the carrot from the parsnip. It then became the official name in the 1500s and Linnaeus adopted it.
The alternate common name of 'Bird's-nest weed' refers to the cup-like hollowed out shape the inflorescence takes after flowering when it folds upward creating the hollow with the twig-like bracts wrapped around the outside.
Comparisons: In the flowering stage and beyond, the bird-cage structure of the umbel should not confuse. Prior to flowering and during flowering from a distance several other members of the carrot family with white flowers may look similar. Look at in moist areas - Fool's Parsley, Aethusa cynapium; Bulblet Water Hemlock, Cicuta bulbifera; Spotted Water Hemlock, Cicuta maculata; and in more dry areas - Bland Sweet Cicely, Osmorhiza claytonii; Aniseroot, Osmorhiza longistylis. None have the purple single flower in the center of the umbel.
Above: The inflorescence is a large flower umbel on a tall stem. Drawing courtesy of Kurt Stuüber's Online LIbrary.
Below: 1st photo - The flower head opens with a cup-like shape and then expands outward. 1nd photo - Individual flowers have 5 unevenly size petals - 3 larger and 2 very small.
Below: The flat-topped umbel, composed of many smaller umbellets, can be up to 5 inches wide. The small purple flower in the center of the center umbellet is distinguishing for this species.
Below: The lower stem leaves have many leaflets. Note the sheath at the leaf base.
Below: 1st photo - the upper surface of a leaflet - note the grooved stalk. 2nd photo - the underside of the leaflet has sparse hair on the ribs. 3rd photo - The green ridged stem has long whitish hairs.
Below: The underside of the umber shows the long lobed bracts at the umbel base
Below: 1st photo - the umbellets have bracts also, but not with large lobes. 2nd photo - detail of stem and leaf sheath.
Notes: Queen Anne's Lace, is the wild version of the cultivated carrot. If cultivated carrots were allowed to grow into the second year and flower, they would resemble this plant. The tremendous number of seeds produced causes the invasiveness, as the plant does not spread via the roots. Along roadsides few plants other than Crown Vetch can out-compete it. It originated in Eurasia and was brought to North America by settlers in the 1700s and 1800s.
In North America Queen Anne's Lace is found in all of the lower 48 states and in Canada all the lower provinces except Alberta. Within Minnesota, the DNR reports populations in only 12 counties, most around the metro area and south along the Mississippi River and several scattered counties in the NW section and the SW section - not well distributed. The only other species of Daucus found in North America is D. pusillus, the American Wild Carrot which is found only in the warm southern and southwestern states and the pacific northwest.
Medicinal and other Uses: The seeds of Queen Anne's Lace contain a volatile oil which is obtained by distilling with water. This is said to by uses as a diuretic, stimulant and deobstrucent. The seeds have also been used to add an agreeable flavor to malt liquor. Mrs. Grieve (Ref.#7) has more extensive words on the plants uses. There is much writing about other uses but it is sometimes not clear which variety is being referred to.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"