Creature Feature Multimedia

Creature Feature: Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Queen Anne’s Lace flowers alongside the Hocking River. Photo by CG Science Editor Emma Dean

By Emma Dean, CG Science Editor

Like many plants found in the United States, Queen Anne’s Lace originated in Europe.  Supposedly, Queen Anne, the wife of King James I, was challenged by her friends to create lace as beautiful as a flower.  While completing the endeavor, she pricked her finger which produced a drop of blood which fits symbolically with the purplish red center of each flower.  Another explanation is that it is so named because lace was extremely popular in Europe during Queen Anne’s rule.

Queen Anne’s Lace is a common sight in the eastern United States, thriving in low-maintenance areas such as dry fields, ditches and open areas.  The plant which grows up to four feet tall and blooms from May to October is often considered an invasive weed rather than a flower since it crowds and creates unnecessary competition for native plants.

Carrots that we eat today originated from this plant and the root is indeed edible.  As a biennial plant, Queen Anne’s Lace lives for two years.  The first year is spent growing which is when the root, white in color, can be cooked and eaten like garden carrots.  After the first year, the root becomes woody and the second year is when the flowers bloom.  Although the large taproot is safe to eat, the leaves are toxic and may irritate a person’s skin.

In addition to being wary of the leaves, it is important to be sure that the plant you intend on eating is actually a Queen Anne’s Lace plant.  Very similar in appearance is the Poison Hemlock which is highly poisonous if congested.  One characteristic helpful in differentiating the two is that Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy stalk and carrot-like aroma when any part of the plant is crushed.  In contrast, Hemlock has a bare, hairless stalk.

Queen Anne’s Lace has fern-like leaves. Photo by CG Science Editor Emma Dean

Fast Facts:

  • Other monikers include Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, Devil’s Plague and Bishop’s Lace.
  • Queen Anne’s Lace reportedly has several medicinal properties:
    • Its seeds can be used for the treatment of cystitis and prostatitis.
    • The plant’s roots are rich in Vitamin A.
    • Its root juice reportedly has anti-cancer properties and is also effective in treating itchy skin.
  • The leaves are fern-like and range in length between two and eight inches.
  •   Pests like aphids are attracted to the plant which then draws predatory insects.  To take advantage of this affect, gardeners will plant Queen Anne’s Lace around their garden so that the predatory insects will stay and rid the rest of the plot of unwanted insects.
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