There is hardly a more ubiquitous or a more elegantly constructed wild flower than Queen Anne’s Lace, which decorates our roadsides for miles on end. Besides the usual white form, a purple form shows up every once in a great while. This one was blooming against a tombstone in an old cemetery in Beechview. Up close, we can see that each tiny flower is an exquisite bicolor, white with purple petals.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
DAÚCUS [Tourn.] L. CARROT. Fruit oblong, flattened dorsally; stylopodium depressed; carpel with 5 slender bristly primary ribs and 4 winged secondary ones, each of the latter bearing a single row of barbed prickles; oil-tubes solitary under the secondary ribs, two on the commissural side. — Bristly annuals or biennials, with pinnately decompound leaves, foliaceous and cleft involucral bracts, and compound umbels which become strongly concave. (The ancient Greek name.)
D. caròta L. Biennial; stem bristly; ultimate leaf-segments lanceolate and cuspidate; rays numerous. — Fields and waste places; a pernicious weed. — The flowers vary from white to roseate or pale yellow, the central one in each umbel usually dark purple. (Nat. from Eu.)
Mrs. Dana (in How to Know the Wild Flowers) gives us a diffuse and engaging description of this common weed:
WILD CARROT. BIRD’S NEST. QUEEN ANNE’S LACE.
Daucus Carota. Parsley Family.
Stems.—Tall and slender. Leaves.—Finely dissected. Flowers.— White ; in a compound umbel, forming a circular flat-topped cluster.
When the delicate flowers of the wild carrot are still unsoiled by the dust from the highway, and fresh from the early summer rains, they are very beautiful, adding much to the appearance of the roadsides and fields along which they grow so abundantly as to strike despair into the heart of the farmer, for this is, perhaps, the “peskiest” of all the weeds with which he has to contend. As time goes on the blossoms begin to have a careworn look and lose something of the cobwebby aspect which won them the title of Queen Anne’s lace. In late summer the flower-stalks erect themselves, forming a concave cluster which has the appearance of a bird’s nest. I have read that a species of bee makes use of this ready-made home, but have never seen any indications of such an occupancy.
This is believed to be the stock from which the garden carrot was raised. The vegetable was well known to the ancients, and we learn from Pliny that the finest specimens were brought to Rome from Candia. When it was first introduced into Great Britain is not known, although the supposition is that it was brought over by the Dutch during the reign of Elizabeth. In the writings of Parkinson we read that the ladies wore carrot-leaves in their hair in place of feathers. One can picture the dejected appearance of a ball-room belle at the close of an entertainment.