What’s That Weed?–Queen Anne’s Lace

This roadside weed is so common that many people actually think it is a native.  It is not; it was brought here by our European forebears.  In fact, Queen Anne’s Lace (daucus carotus) is a European native from which our modern carrots are derived.  

While the USDA classifies it as a “noxious weed,” it is actually used and preferred by many species of wildlife.  Its seeds do persist in the soil for quite some time, however, and of course because it is basically a wild carrot it has a long tap root and is difficult to remove.

Like common mullein, it too is a bienniel, growing just a basal rosette the first year and flowering the second.  It is these seed heads, however, that produce so many seeds that are problematic.

The leaves on the plant are poisonous and may produce a contact dermatitis-like rash if touched.  The first year root is edible but by the time the plant is flowering the root is generally too woody to be eaten.  Because the plant so closely resembles poison hemlock, however, correct identification is a must!

Just a few of the the species that use this plant in some ways are the eastern black swallowtail butterfly, the green lacewing (a beneficial insect), beneficial bees, and goldfinch, bluebirds and mockingbirds, which all shelter in the plant’s dense growth.

So the next time you see this common roadside weed, try to appreciate it for its value to wildlife!

4 thoughts on “What’s That Weed?–Queen Anne’s Lace

  1. Tatyana July 31, 2010 / 12:08 am

    There are so many unknown to me facts in this post! I didn’t know about carrots! Queen Anne’s Lace flowers are pretty. If I had this plant in my garden, I’d watch for seeds although! Someone gave me milkweed seeds, and I am wondering how agressive it’ll be. I didn’t remove spent blooms promptly. Thanks for the post!

    • gardendaze July 31, 2010 / 7:54 am

      I wouldn’t worry about the milkweed. Milkweeds are natives and they don’t tend to get too much out of control despite their taproots. This one, however, despite its pretty flower, can be a little different. So if you like it, plant it in a spot where you don’t mind it getting a little wild–or where it has some competition with some other rampant sowers like black-eyed susan that would probably smother it!

  2. unmowed February 7, 2013 / 4:20 pm

    Very interesting information and lovely pictures, thank you

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