Since I noticed and identified what I believe to be a Butterfly Weed a few weeks back, I have been watching along the roadsides in my recent travels. There are some beautiful plants in nature, many of them considered weeds. One such plant is Queen Anne’s Lace. There seems to be a bountiful crop this year. Yesterday I saw a ten-acre field almost entirely covered with the delicate white plant.
Queen Anne’s Lace (daucus carota) is often called a wild carrot. It smells like a carrot if you pull it up. The roots are edible when the plant is very young, but it quickly gets tough and woody as it matures. The flowers are sometimes battered and fried. The leaves can also be eaten, but in small quantities. If used as a dye, the flowers give off a creamy off-white color.
The plant is often referred to as a beneficial weed, especially as a companion crop. It attracts pollinators and butterflies. It boosts tomato production when close by. It also serves as a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce crops. Yet, the states of Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Washington have deemed the plant a noxious weed and considerate it a serious pest in pasture fields.
The plant is native to Europe but was introduced and naturalized in North America several centuries ago. It derives its name – first because the white flower truly resembles lace – and second, because the red flower in the center was thought to represent a drop of blood when Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was tatting lace.
Queen Anne’s Lace thrives in meadows but cannot grow in the thick fescue grasses. When you see a field of Queen Anne’s Lace, you know it’s pretty good habitat for a variety of plant and animal life.
A word of warning. Queen Anne’s Lace and the deadly Poison Hemlock are similar in appearance. Poison Hemlock is almost the exact color as its counterpart, but the flower does not have a distinct lace pattern. If you decide to eat a few “wild carrots” make sure you get the right one.