Daucus carota is a biennial forb with
alternate, finely-divided compound leaves and a large flat-topped
inflorescence comprised of many small white flowers. The
flowers are arranged in compound umbels and there are pinnately
divided bracts at the base of the inflorescence. The
outer branches of the inflorescence tend to curl upward
as the fruit mature, creating the appearance of a nest--hence
one of the common names "bird's-nest weed". It
is more commonly known as "wild carrot" by those
who consider it a weed and "Queen Anne's-lace"
by those who admire the showy inflorescence. Common garden
carrots are cultivars of this species and you can readily
see the potential in the large taproot
of wild plants. The wild roots if cut or bruised emit a
strong odor easily recognizeable as carrot, but they are
tough and not sweet so they will not substitute for the
horticultural varieties as a vegetable.
Daucus carota is an alien species from
Europe and is widely naturalized in the United States. In
Wisconsin it is common in the southern half of the state,
uncommon north of Brown County and apparently absent from
the northwestern part of the state.