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wild carrot seed head

Bird's Nest Weed (Daucus carota).
More commonly known as Queen Anne's Lace
or Wild Carrot, when in flower

This species is commonly known as Queen Anne's Lace when it is in flower. As the flowers mature, the branches of the inflorescence curl up to form a cupped structure that resembles a bird's nest when viewed from above. This species (Daucus carota) is a good example of a plant that has been judged very differently by people, being at times considered variously as a garden vegetable, a wildflower and a noxious weed. A cultivated variety is our garden Carrot, planted in many backyards and a popular vegetable familiar to all. The "wild" variety is often called Queen Anne's Lace, widely naturalized in North America, growing abundantly in vacant land and along roadsides where it is appreciated by many wildflower enthusiasts, and sometimes even sold in "wildflower" or "meadow" seed mixes. However, when it grows uninvited in agricultural land it is more likely to be called "Wild Carrot" or "Birds Nest Weed" and treated as a troublesome weed.

The leaves of wild carrot are indistinguishable from the garden variety and the roots are of similar design to garden carrot although smaller and nearly white. Roots and leaves when broken produce the same odor as garden carrot. The roots are "edible", but lack the sweet taste of garden carrots and are often notably tough and "woody" in the judgment of most experimenters, except when very young. It is worth noting that other members of this family have similar white flowers and some of them are poisonous. It is not safe to eat wild plants unless you are certain that you know exactly what they are and that they are safe to eat.

Garden Carrot is believed to have been domesticated in Aghanistan and neighboring areas and was recorded from at least as long ago as 1000 AD. As is often the case, there are cultural differences in the types of carrots consumed by people in different parts of the world, with many different variations of color and form.

Contributed by Gary Fewless

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Last updated on April 15, 2014