This beautiful flower is promoted as a wild edible but it has a long history, deadly look-a-likes, and is even the mother of modern-day carrots!
It is believed that Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as Wild Carrot, originated in Afghanistan and is now native to Europe. It is naturalized in North America but it is not a native and is considered a weed in many places. One awesome thing about this plant is that it is the ancestor of the modern day carrot. If we take a look at the scientific name for the cultivated carrot it is Daucus carota var. sativus. What differs the wild carrot from the cultivated carrot is that the cultivated carrot is a variety (var.) of Daucus carota that was bred to be larger, sweeter, and different colors. This means that the root of Queen Anne’s Lace is definitely edible!
This plant has a lot of names but Queen Anne’s Lace is one of the best-known names for this wild carrot. One legend says that the flower was named after King James I’s wife, Anne, who absolutely loved this plant. She held a contest to see who could produce a piece of lace that best represented the flower. She, of course, won the contest but while making the lace she pricked her finger. The blood from her finger fell in the center of the lace pattern and became the reddish purple floret in the center of the white flower. It is also believed that the flower is named after St. Anne, patron saint of lacemakers who was also the mother of the Virgin Mary.
Queen Anne’s Lace has a couple of medicinal uses but it isn’t a very popular herb anymore. It is best known for its edible root and its seed’s abortion properties. The seed has been used for centuries as a “morning after” contraceptive. Today it is mostly used as a culinary food, eating the root and frying the flower.
🕱 Poison Hemlock 🕱
Queen Anne’s Lace actually has quite a few look-a-likes. A lot of plants in the parsley/carrot family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) have very similar flowers so it can be a bit confusing. The one plant you absolutely have to know the difference between is poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). This plant is poisonous and can be fatal. It killed Socrates and was once used in Greece as a method of execution. You can often find poison hemlock growing alongside Queen Anne’s Lace which means it is extremely vital that you can identify both plants before harvesting. Do not harvest the plant or eat any part of it if you are not sure!
Poison hemlock has a smooth stem (QAL is hairy), as well as being hallow and has purple spotting (QAL is all green). It can grow to be 2-9 feet tall and when the leaves are bruised it emits a bad smell. It is often confused with Queen Anne’s Lace and wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa).
Believe it or not, poison hemlock has been used as a medicine before. However, it is recommended that you do not consume any part of the plant. Side effects and toxicities include: increased saliva, burning of the digestive tract, drowsiness, muscle pain, rapid swelling and stiffening of muscles, kidney damage, rapid breakdown of muscle tissue and release of muscle tissue byproducts into the blood, rapid heart rate followed by a decreased heart rate, loss of speech, paralysis, unconsciousness, heart, lung, and kidney failure, and death.
Common Name: Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot
Scientific Name: Daucus carota
Leaves- alternate, up to 4″ long, pinnate-pinnatifid, light-med green top & smooth, underside light green & smooth-slightly hairy
Stem- light green, sometimes has a red tint, vertically veined, hallow, smooth-hairy
Flower- umbel, flat clusters, white, 1 small deep purple floret in the center, 3 forked bracts beneath
Height- 2-4 feet
Harvest Time: June-September
Parts Edible: Roots, Seeds, Flowers
Found: Native to Europe & SW Asia, found throughout North America; waste places, roadsides, full sun
-Root use traditionally to get rid of urinary stones and worms
-Seeds were a folk remedy once used as a “morning after” contraceptive
-It was once believed that eating the purple flower in the center of the flower could cure epileptic seizures
-An infusion of the leaves was used to treat cystitis and kidney stone formation
-Flower tea has been used to treat diabetes
-The root has been used to delay menstruation
-An infusion made from the seeds has been used to treat edema, flatulent indigestion, and menstrual problems
Vitamins, Minerals, & More
Properties of the entire plant: anthelmintic, carminative, deobstruent, diuretic, galactagogue, ophthalmic, stimulant
Properties: anthelmintic, diuretic, emmenagogue, antioxidant, bactericidal
Properties: abortifacient, diuretic, carminative, contraceptive, emmenagogue, anthelmintic
-Are parts of the plant can be eaten and have been fried and added to soups
-Dried roots can be used as a coffee substitute
-Essential oil from seed has been used in perfumery and as a food flavoring
-Leaves, roots, and flowers used in making tea
-Do not take any part of Queen Anne’s Lace/ Wild Carrot while pregnant. The seeds, especially, can cause menstruation and abortions.
-Avoid all parts of the plant while breastfeeding as not much information is available as to how safe it might be.
-Could cause an allergic reaction in those allergic to birch, mugwort, spices, and celery
-Could cause dermatitis and blisters
-Queen Anne’s Lace/ Wild Carrot could interact with the following medications:
- High blood pressure medications
- Medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight
-Queen Anne’s Lace/ Wild Carrot could make worsen kidney issues and could increase the risk of sunburns
-Stop using two weeks before surgery
-Harvest roots in spring for best tasting roots, first-year roots are also better tasting
-Harvest flowers throughout the summer
-Seeds can be harvested in the autumn
Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting
- Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
- Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
- Do not harvest on private property without permission
- Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
- Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
- Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)