Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot (Daucus carota) is native to parts of Europe and Asia and is naturalized in North America and Australia. It is a biennial in the family Apiaceae. Domestic carrots are cultivars bred from its subspecies D. carota ssp. sativus. Being a biennial, it grows a leafy mound of green fern-like foliage the first season and then produces flowers the second year. Flowers are produced from June through August. The tiny white flowers are borne in flat to slightly rounded clusters called umbels. Before they’re fully open, the flowers may have a pink to reddish caste. In some umbels, there is a single dark red flower in the center. This is said to be a droplet of blood where Queen Anne pricked her finger while making the lace. The function of the red flower is thought to be an attractant for insects.
The root of the wild carrot is edible when it is young but becomes woody and unpalatable as it matures. As early as 2000 years ago the crushed seeds were used as a contraceptive. Research has somewhat supported this; in studies with mice wild carrot was found to disrupt the egg implantation process. It is not recommended here to use wild carrot for this purpose!
Wild carrot has a poisonous look-alike plant, poison or water hemlock, so it should never be consumed unless it is absolutely certain that it has been identified correctly. The leaves of Queen Anne’s lace can cause irritation known as phytophotodermatitis. When the sap from the leaves gets on the skin and it is then exposed to sunlight, a rash may develop. This plant is considered a noxious weed by the USDA because of this and because it is a pest in pastures, displacing desirable native plants.
Queen Anne’s lace is also a beneficial plant because it can help attract insect parasites and predators of pest insects to the garden. Beneficial wasps, ant lions and green lacewings either feed on the nectar or pollen of the flowers or are attracted to aphids on the flowers.
Many animals use the wild carrot plant as a source of food or shelter. Some that use it as a food source include the eastern black swallowtail butterfly, honeybee, green stinkbug, differential grasshopper, golden northern bumblebee and green lacewing. Many animals use it for shelter including the eastern black swallowtail, aphids, dog ticks, Chinese mantid, American goldfinch, black and yellow argiope, eastern bluebird, green stinkbug, eastern mole, differential grasshopper, northern mockingbird, common grackle, green lacewing and chiggers. Other plants commonly found growing with wild carrot include goldenrod, milkweed, pokeweed, smooth crabgrass, red clover, English plantain, devil’s beggar-tick, spotted Joe-pye weed, lamb’s quarters, common ragweed, jimsonweed, black-eyed Susan, Kentucky bluegrass, wild strawberry, and common mullein.