Known as Wild Carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace, and If you’re reading this, you are probably wondering about that white flower that seems to cover ditches and disturbed sites in late summer. It is ubiquitous almost everywhere you look from roadsides to unkempt lawns – basically anywhere that can support vegetation! It is Queen Anne’s Lace, a wildflower native to Southwest Asia and many areas in Europe. Although it is pretty, it has become firmly established throughout North America and is listed as a noxious weed in at least four states (IA, MN, OH, WA).
This plant is prolific. Too prolific in my opinion, as it displaces our native vegetation. It grows well in seemingly any soil and location. It produces ridiculous amounts of viable seed, and germinates easily. This is evident by its status as a noxious weed in many states. It obviously has some value to pollinators, as they have no problem visiting it. But it is amazing to me just how common it is from Nebraska to the Atlantic Ocean (and I’ve driven it all!).
Furthermore if you have a wildflower garden or micro-prairie, this plant could easily invade and get out of control. Although it doesn’t seem to take up much space, it still will steal sunlight and nutrients from more desirable native plants. I find it is best to keep thuggish alien invaders out of my gardens as a general policy.
Other interesting facts
A member of the parsnip family, Queen Anne’s Lace is closely related to the carrots we grow and love to eat today. Allegedly, a cross pollination occurred randomly in the 1500’s or 1600’s that created our nice orange carrots. I’ve read that if you attempt to save seeds from carrots you grow in the garden you must make sure there are no Queen Anne’s Lace nearby. If a carrot farmer has just a few of the invasive specimens the pollen can cross with the nice purple flowers of orange carrots, and result in seeds that will now germinate into Queen Anne’s Lace. That would be a devastating event for a farmer.
General Physical Description, Identification
This is a herbaceous biennial, meaning that its life cycle is two years. During the first year is just a rosette grouping of basal leaves on the ground. The leaves are 4-5″ long and 2-3″ across. It is difficult to spot as it just kind of blends in with other vegetation.
1 – Stem Identification and characteristics:
In the second year the plant will grow straight up on a hollow stem that is veined/ribbed and fairly stout. It will have small leaf/stem combinations along the stem. The plant always seems to spring back up no matter how much of a storm occurs, so the stem is fairly ‘springy’.
2 – Leaf Identification:
The leaves are deeply lobed and pointy, and very ornate/delicate. They have been described as similar to lace, hence could also be a reason for the common name. The leaves tend to be about 1/8″-1/2″ long by 1/16″-1/8″ wide.
3 – Flower/Bloom Identification:
The flower is at the terminus of the upper stems. It will make a flat crown that consists of clusters (umbels). No leaves will be present on the upper stems leading to the flower. In the center of the main flower there is a single purple flower.
The main flower cluster will be 4-5″ in diameter. The cluster will have hundreds of tiny intricate flowers. The crown will be flat and face the sky, and there may be multiple umbels per plant.
Once the flowers have bloomed and been pollinated, the cluster will begin to curl inward. After the flower has dried, the seeds will be able to stick to almost anything that contacts them. So it is easy to see why this plant can spread so far. How many deer, birds, and other mammals pick up seeds only to drop them off nearby?
4 – Root Identificaiton
The root of Queen Anne’s Lace resembles a carrot. I’ve read that it smells just like a carrot, and is similar in shape. But unless you are starving in the wilds of Alaska, I wouldn’t suggest you dig it up (read next section for warning).
Is Queen Anne’s Lace edible?
Please don’t eat this plant, as if you mistake it for a similar looking plant that is it’s cousin, you may very well die. Yes, the root is edible as it is related to wild carrot. But I warn you, do not eat this plant unless you are 100% sure you know what it is. It very closely resembles Poison Hemlock, which is another noxious weed that has invaded North America. If you consume Poison Hemlock you can easily die. It grows in the same types of areas and conditions as Queen Anne’s Lace. So, my warning – don’t eat the root or any part of this plant. Just play it safe.
You might find some of our other profiles on invasive plants useful. We have to fight them off the same as you do! Have a look, you may learn a few tricks: