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Queen Anne’s Lace: The Easy Carrot

Many people know that Queen Anne’s Lace is a weed, but fewer people know its secret identity. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, is actually wild carrot. The carrot we all know and accept into our gardens is a cultivated strain of the same plant (sativa). In fact, if you don’t harvest your garden carrots the first year, they bloom the next year and look exactly the same as Queen Anne’s Lace, with its beautiful umbel flowers. Then they will reseed and cross pollinate with wild carrot plants, and what you have in your garden will eventually be wild carrots. This plant has tons of uses, so let’s get into it.

Carrots are food!

Wild carrots are edible, just like cultivated carrots. The root is white rather than the colors we usually see in the market, and like most wild-to-cultivated comparisons, the wild carrot is less sweet. You can use wild carrots in any way that you would use carrots. You can eat them raw, but since they are less sweet, you might try them cooked first.

Queen Anne's Lace flowers, try to harvest the first year, before the flowers come up
Try to harvest Queen Anne’s Lace in the first year. If you see flowers, it’s the second year, but not to worry! You can still use them for vegetable broth.

To eat wild carrots, harvest them in the first year. In the second year, the roots become woody as they send up flower stalks. And then that’s it — they are biennial and only live for two years (but very easily reseed).

But if you didn’t notice them in the first year or just didn’t get around to harvesting them, you can still use them in the second year — even after they’ve flowered. Just pull it up and use it to make vegetable broth. Add other vegetables and “weeds” from the garden (like wild parsnip and sunchokes). Then add vegetable scraps (just keep them in a container in the freezer to accumulate until you have enough). While you’re at it, you can throw the carrot tops in there too. If you’ve been buying all your vegetable broth, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done this forever — it’s free! Check out this recipe for all the details.

Attracts beneficial wasps

Wild carrots are also beneficial insect attractors. Wasps particularly love the flowers of this plant (and all umbelliferous flowers). Why would you want to attract wasps to the garden? Because they are extremely beneficial! Most wasps are parasitic and lay their eggs on other insects (e.g. caterpillars and  Japanese beetle) that might be “pests” in the garden. When the larvae hatch, they burrow into the insect and eat them from the inside out.

They are also pollinators and help pollinate our flowers. Plus, they are the prey of animals like dragonflies, birds, and bats – animals that also eat mosquitos. We happily attract wasps to our garden, and none of us has ever been stung. Sometimes they accidentally fly into our house and we have successfully, many times, taken them outside, still alive, and not been stung. I am absolutely sure insects can feel our vibrations and know if we feel fear or have ill intentions. Obviously take or leave that bit of hippy trivia.

Beneficial wasp on queen anne's lace flower
Queen Anne’s Lace flowers attract beneficial wasps.

You say it’s a weed

Queen Anne’s Lace can be pretty weedy and is not native to here. Before you allow it to grow in your garden, make sure it’s not listed as invasive in your area. It’s not invasive here, so I’m allowing it to grow in my garden. It’s beautiful and useful. I think it’s also improving my retched soil (we live in a new subdivision in that was built in a spent gravel pit) by aerating the soil and adding organic matter as unharvested roots decompose.

Also of note is that there are some toxic plants in the carrot family that can be look-alikes to wild carrot. Poison Hemlock is of the largest concern. Please visit this site for excellent, thorough descriptions and pictures on identifying wild carrot and distinguishing it from its look-alikes.

And now let’s look at all of the qualities of this lacy garden goddess.

Plant Profile

FamilyApiaceae
GenusDaucus
Speciescarota
Common NameQueen Anne’s Lace
HabitHerbaceous
Height1-2 ft
Width0.5-1 ft
Foliage ColorGreen
Flower ColorWhite with purple center
Bloom TimeJun-Aug
PollinationInsects, self-fertile
DurationBiennial
USDA Hardiness Zone4-8
ReproductionSeed
Native in the USNo
Aggressive Behavior (High, Med, Low)Med
Sun RequirementsFull Sun
Moisture RequirementMedium
Drought TolerantYes
N FixationNo
Root StructureTap
Biomass ProductionNo
Soil PenetrationYes
Edible Leaf/StalkYes, use small quantities like any herb
Edible FruitNo
Edible SeedNo
Edible RootYes
Edible FlowersYes
Harvest TimeAll year
Harvest notesFor the root, harvest first year like cultivated carrot
Storage TimeFew months in cold storage
Poisonous PartsNo, but has poisonous look-alikes to be aware of
MedicinalYes
Medicinal UsesWild carrot is used for urinary tract problems including kidney stones, bladder problems, water retention, and excess uric acid in the urine; and also for gout, a painful joint problem caused by too much uric acid. The seed oil is used for severe diarrhea (dysentery), indigestion, and intestinal gas. This information was found from other resources. Consult your doctor.
InsectaryYes
Larval HostYes, including Swallowtail Butterfly larvae
Wildlife foodYes
Wildlife shelterNo
Pest ConfusionNo
Fragrance Pleasant to HumansNot Fragrant
Deer ResistantYes
Beauty (urban,
H, M, L)
High
FuelNo
FiberNo
DyeYes, green, brown, or cream, depending on fiber, mordant, and modifier
ThornsNo
Tolerates jugloneYes
AllelopathicNo
NoteIf you plant garden carrots and let them reseed, they will revert back to their wild ancestor, daucus carota

What do you think about Queen Anne’s Lace? Have you always hated it? Do you grow it in your garden? What is your favorite use for wild carrot? Leave a comment below!

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