botany lace


Daucus carota, Apiaceae

Like most of the vegetables we commonly consume, modern carrots are the result of extensive selective breeding and domestication of a wild ancestor, in this case Daucus carota (subsp. sativus), known as wild carrot or Queen Anne’s lace. D. carota is native to most of Europe and temperate SW Asia and is quite variable in its form, but definitely looks like your typical Apiacea, with leaves and white inflorescences that could be easily mistaken for those of the highly poisonous Conium, Cicuta and Aethusa. A way to tell wild carrot apart is the presence of a larger flower at the center of the white umbel, generally ranging from pale pink to dark magenta, but this trait is not present in all subspecies. Regardless, care should be taken in pulling or cutting this plant too, as the sap is phototoxic and can cause skin irritation, a trait shared with giant hogweed and other plants within the family. 

The whitish taproot of this biennial is edible -although different in taste from the cultivated one- and should be harvested during the first year, when the plant is still using it to store energy to subsequently flower, after which only the central woody core is left. The flowers are edible too, but not in large quantities. It also has medicinal properties and was used mostly in infusion to treat issues with the urinary system, like inflammation, cystitis and kidney stones, but should be definitely avoided during pregnancy as it could be dangerous.