As I was weeding my flower bed one day, I noticed that one particular weed looked remarkably like a carrot top:
I even questioned whether it was possible for some of the seeds from my garden to have been carried over and dropped in with my flowers.
And then when I pulled the weed and smelled the thin root, it smelled exactly like a carrot!
Was it a carrot?
I took it inside and googled “wild carrots“. Sure enough, that’s what it was! And yes, they are edible!
But it surprised me to learn that these are actually immature Queen Anne’s Lace plants. First year growth doesn’t develop a flower head, and the whole plant is good to eat. Once they get their distinct umbrella shaped white flowers on top, the flavor becomes woody and is no longer desirable.
What is Queen Anne’s Lace (aka Wild Carrot)?
Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) is a flowering plant in the carrot family. The wild ancestor of the domesticated carrot, it is also known as “wild carrot” or “bird’s nest”. The plant is native to Europe and Asia, and has been introduced to North America and Australia.
Queen Anne’s lace is an invasive species in many parts of North America, where it is often called “wild carrot”. The plant can be a nuisance in gardens, as it takes over valuable space and Crowds out other plants. However, some gardeners appreciate the plant for its beautiful flowers and pleasant fragrance.
I recognized these flowers from being all around our property. My dad always called them Chigger Bushes, because of the little chigger bugs that jump off of them and cause itchy bites.
We were always warned to stay far away from these blooms. But hey, if they’re edible I’ll take my chances! Besides, a little clear nail polish over the bites is all it takes to kill the burrowing insect.
How to Use Queen Anne’s Lace
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So, once you’ve determined you do in fact have Queen Anne’s Lace, or “wild carrot”, how do you use it?
In Linda Runyon’s book, The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide, I found the following information:
“Stems may be cut into sections and used for flavoring in stews and soups. Buds may be sauteed in oil. The brown dried seeds are an excellent salt substitute.”
According to Linda’s Wild Foraging Cards, you can use wild carrots in the following ways:
- Roots: Use in soups, stews. Freeze; dry.
- Leaves: Eat raw; steam; boil; saute; drink liquid used for cooking. Use in soups and stews. Freeze.
- Flower Heads: Eat raw; fry.
- Seeds: Collect in autumn and dry for salt substitute.
Here are a couple of recipes you might also like to try:
How to Get Rid of Wild Carrot
Wild carrot, also known as Queen Anne’s lace, is a pretty white flower that has many benefits. It attracts bees and other pollinators, helps prevent soil erosion, and can be used as an herbal remedy. However, wild carrot can also become a weed if it’s not kept in check.
If you want to get rid of wild carrots, the best time to do it is in the spring or fall. You can pull up the plants by hand, or use a hoe or trowel to dig them up.
Be sure to get as much of the root system as possible so the plants don’t regrow. You can also try smothering them with mulch or covering them with black plastic.
If you have a persistent problem with wild carrots, you may need to use an herbicide. Glyphosate is effective but must be applied carefully to avoid harming other plants.
With a little effort, you can keep wild carrots under control and enjoy its many benefits.
What is Poison Hemlock?
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is a member of the carrot family, and it can be found growing wild in damp areas throughout North America. This tall, thin plant has distinctive purplish spots on its stem, and its leaves are large and fern-like.
Native to Europe and Asia, poison hemlock was introduced to North America in the 1800s as an ornamental plant. Since then, it has become naturalized in many parts of the continent.
The plant has small white flowers and fern-like leaves. It is often found in damp areas, such as along streams or in wet meadows.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, and ingesting even a small amount can be fatal. Poison hemlock contains a number of toxic compounds, including coniine and gamma-coniceine. These substances interfere with the nervous system, causing muscle paralysis and respiratory failure.
Symptoms of poison hemlock poisoning or toxicity include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and convulsions. There is no antidote for poison hemlock poisoning, so prompt medical treatment is essential. If you suspect that someone has ingested poison hemlock, call 911 immediately.
Queen Anne’s Lace has a deadly look-alike, Hemlock. Even touching Hemlock can poison you, and ingestion means almost certain death unless treated immediately.
As the toxins from the plant absorb into your system, you slowly become paralyzed, your respiratory system fails, and you die.
Terrible. I know. So you definitely need to know how to distinguish between the two plants.
Fortunately, there are several very clear differences between Queen Anne’s Lace and Hemlock. It’s pretty easy to tell them apart once you learn what to spot, so don’t be afraid to try!
Getting Rid of Poison Hemlock
To get rid of poison hemlock from your property, dig up the roots and dispose of them in a plastic bag.
Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling the plant to avoid skin contact. You can also mow down the plant before it goes to seed to help prevent it from spreading.
Yesterday, I took the kids on a nature walk so that I could teach them how to properly identify Queen Anne’s Lace and to be able to distinguish it from Poison Hemlock.
It would be terrible if the kids spotted some hemlock and picked the flowers thinking they were beautiful. We weren’t able to find any on our property, thankfully, but it’s always good for them (and myself!) to know the difference.
Although they both have umbrella shaped tiny white (or sometimes pale pink) clusters of flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace has a teeny tiny purple or crimson colored flower in the center of its blooms.
See it in the picture? It isn’t always there, sometimes it has already withered, or hasn’t developed yet. But if you see this, you know for sure it’s Queen Anne’s Lace.
The story goes that Queen Anne was making lace when she pricked her finger and a drop of blood fell into the middle of her work, this is how the plant got its name. Telling the story is a good way for kids to remember which plant is supposed to have the purple flower.
Hemlock looks a bit different, when you get close enough to really get a good look. Though it would be hard to accurately tell the difference every time by only looking at the blooms. Thankfully, the stems are a dead giveaway.
Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy, completely green stem. Poison Hemlock is smooth, and has purple blotches or black spots, or streaks on the stem:
Another identifier is the way the plants look when the blooms are dying back. Queen Anne’s Lace will fold up like a bird’s nest.
Hemlock will not fold up as it goes to seed, but will just turn brown instead.
Queen Anne’s Lace and poison hemlock look similar at first glance, but they can be distinguished based on their height. Queen Anne’s Lace typically grows to be about two feet tall, while poison hemlock can grow up to nine feet tall. The latter is much taller!
But the REAL test is the smell. If you’ve found a flower and you are fairly certain that you’ve identified it as a Queen Anne’s Lace, the final test is to crush the stem a little then smell.
If it smells like a carrot, you can know for sure that it’s Queen Anne’s Lace, and it’s safe to eat. If it stinks, or has a musty/yucky smell, go wash your hands, it’s possible that the plant is Hemlock.
Poison hemlock is also dangerous to animals if consumed.
These plants can grow in pastures and fields, and they can be mistaken for other, safe plants. If ingested, they can cause serious health problems or even death in livestock. That’s why it’s important to be aware of these plants and make sure to keep your animals away from them.
If you suspect that your animal has eaten either of these plants, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Taking these simple precautions can help to keep your livestock safe and healthy.
Carrots are a popular vegetable, but did you know that there are several other plants that share its appearance? Watch out for these imposters in the garden!
Yarrow has finely divided leaves that are fern-like in appearance. Yarrow has finely divided leaves that are fern-like in appearance, while biscuitroot has leaves that are more broad and flat. In addition, yarrow typically grows in clusters.
Biscuitroot is a common weed that resembles a carrot. It has a long, cylindrical root and foliage that is often mistaken for the vegetable. Biscuitroot grows in disturbed areas such as gardens, fields, and roadsides.
While it is not harmful to humans, it can be a nuisance in gardens and yards. The best way to control biscuitroot is to pull it up by the root. However, this can be difficult as the roots are often very hard to break.
One common weed in carrot beds is angelica. It has a similar appearance to carrots, but its leaves are more triangular in shape.
Another weed to watch out for is cow parsnip, also known as hogweed or wild parsnip. It has large, umbrella-like leaves and can grow to be over six feet tall. While it’s not likely to be confused with a carrot, it can crowd out the plants and make it difficult for them to get the sunlight and nutrients they need.
Giant cow parsnip is particularly dangerous. Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is an invasive plant that can be dangerous to humans and animals. The plant can grow up to 14 feet tall and has large, white flowers. The stem is covered in dark-red or purple spots and the leaves are extremely sharp. If the sap from the plant comes into contact with skin, it can cause severe burns and blistering. In some cases, the sap can even cause blindness.
The plant is also poisonous if ingested. Animals that eat giant hogweed may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. If you come into contact with the plant, it’s important to wash the area with soap and water immediately. You should also avoid touching your eyes or mouth until you’ve been able to wash your hands thoroughly.
If you think you have been poisoned by the plant, call your local poison control center immediately.
Swinecress is a weed that is often mistaken for carrots. The weed can grow up to two feet tall and has deep green leaves that resemble the foliage of carrot plants.
However, swinecress does not produce edible roots and is not considered to be a desirable plant by gardeners. The weed is prevalent in gardens and fields, and can be difficult to control once it becomes established.
Swinecress plants are able to produce thousands of seeds, which are spread by wind and animals. The best way to prevent the weed from taking over a garden is to remove it as soon as it is spotted.
Southern Brassbuttons look very similar to carrots, with long, slender leaves and small yellow flowers. However, unlike carrots, this weed is extremely difficult to control.
Southern Brass Buttons reproduce quickly and easily, and it spreads rapidly through gardens and yards. If left unchecked, it can quickly take over an entire garden bed.
If you’ve ever seen a pineapple weed (Chamomilla suaveolens), you might have mistaken it for a carrot plant. Both plants have yellow flowers and deeply divided leaves, and they even belong to the same family (Asteraceae).
Wild celery (Apium graveolens) is a common weed that often pops up in gardens. At first glance, it may be mistaken for a carrot plant, as it has similar leaves and a slender, white root.
However, wild celery is actually a member of the parsley family. It is an annual plant that grows quickly and can reach up to two feet in height.
While it is not toxic to humans, wild celery can be harmful to other plants. It is known to be a carrier of several plant diseases, including curly top virus and white rust. In addition, the deep root system of wild celery can compete with other plants for nutrients and water.
As a result, it is best to remove wild celery plants from the garden as soon as they are spotted.
Burweed (Oxalis stricta) is a common weed in many lawns. It is a low-growing plant that spreads quickly, and it can be tough to control once it becomes established. Burweed is a difficult weed to control because it reproduces both vegetatively and by seed.
Poison parsnip is easy to spot once you know what to look for. It has tall, hollow stems and umbrella-like clusters of small, yellow flowers. The leaves are deeply divided and have a hairy texture.
This noxious weed with flowering stems looks benign, but it’s incredibly dangerous. All parts of the plant, including the stalk, release a toxin that produces a photosensitive reaction in your skin.
This plant can only be removed by digging up the taproots – mowing will get rid of it temporarily but it will just come back for a second year. It’s also harmful for animals to eat.
And while the root system of poison parsnip looks similar to that of a carrot, the two plants are actually quite different.
Poison parsnip is a member of the Apiaceae family, which also includes other edible plants like celery and fennel. However, eating any part of poison parsnip can cause severe irritation, blistering, and even blindness.
Sweet cicely (Osmorhiza longistylis) is a perennial herb that is found throughout North America. It gets its name from its sweet, anise-like flavor, which is caused by the presence of an aromatic compound called anethole.
Sweet cicely is often used as a natural sweetener or flavoring agent, but it can also be used in salads, soups, and stews. Despite its culinary usefulness, sweet cicely is considered a weed by many gardeners due to its aggressive growth habit.
So, if you are looking for a beautiful wildflower to add to your garden that is also edible, consider growing Queen Anne’s Lace – or simply just allowing it to grow wild in your garden rather than treating it as a weed!
Just be sure to positively identify it before harvesting any part of the plant. Deadly hemlock closely resembles queen Anne’s lace and can cause serious health problems or death if ingested.
With a little bit of research and caution, you can enjoy both the beauty and bounty of these wonderful plants in your backyard!
Would you be interested in foraging for wild carrots? Do you know if you have any Queen Anne’s Lace growing in your area?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.