Daucus carota [common names include wild carrot, bird’s nest, bishop’s lace, and Queen Anne’s lace) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia and naturalised to North America and Australia. Domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies, Daucus carota subsp. sativus.
The wild carrot is a herbaceous, somewhat variable biennial plant that grows between 1 and 2 feet [0.3 and 0.6 m] tall, roughly hairy, with a stiff solid stem. The leaves are tri-pinnate, finely divided and lacy, overall triangular in shape. The flowers are small and dull white, clustered in flat, dense umbels. They may be pink in bud and there may be a reddish flower in the centre of the umbel. The dried umbels detach from the plant, becoming tumbleweeds.
Like the cultivated carrot, the Daucus carota root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume.
Daucus carota, when freshly cut, will draw or change color depending on the color of the water in which it is held. Note that this effect is only visible on the “head” or flower of the plant. Carnations also exhibit this effect. This occurrence is a popular science demonstration in primary grade school.
This beneficial weed can be used as a companion plant to crops. Like most members of the umbellifer family, it attracts wasps to its small flowers in its native land; however, where it has been introduced, it attracts only very few of such wasps. This species is also documented to boost tomato plant production when kept nearby.
Photo: Dublin, Ohio, USA