Queen Anne’s Lace

August 5, 2010 at 1:27 am 3 comments

If you drive on virtually any highway in the Northeast right now, you’ll see the flowers of this plant swarming in the waste places along the side of the road, crowding right up to the edge of the highway as if they’re teenage fans and you’re a 19-year-old music star with a baby face and hair like a lion’s mane. This is yet another Old World plant that has become very common in North America.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) is also known as Wild Carrot. The big orange carrot that we eat in salads belongs to the same species, and it likely originated from the selective breeding of an especially palatable subspecies of Daucus carota that was found in Afghanistan. We decry it as a weed in one context, and then pay money for its julienned cousin in another context — it’s a good thing plants can’t chuckle.

The name Queen Anne’s Lace is particular to North America. The flower looks an awful lot like lace, and there is a little red bloom in the center that colonial folks thought looked like blood — the story goes that Queen Anne pricked her finger while she was sewing the lace, and a drop of blood landed in the middle of her doily. I don’t know why Queen Anne in particular gets picked on here. She was definitely a fiery character, but I don’t think her lace sewing was anything to crow about.

Look for the lacy white flowers in fields and waste places, and dig up the young root for a little carroty snack. Better yet, affix it to your lapel; you’ll smell like a fresh garden salad, and you can challenge your date to lean in real close and find the one red bloom.

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Entry filed under: Herbaceous plants.

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