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The Wondrous World of Wild Carrots

Wild Carrot – Daucus Carota

The wild carrot plant, also known as Queen Anne's lace, bird's nest, or bishop's lace,is a beautiful wildflower native to Europe, Asia and Africa. It has its roots nestled in over 60 countries spanning from the UK to eastern Europe, the middle east and even reaching into Africa.

Ever wondered where the carrots we eat today come from? They have actually been

cultivated over generations of cross breeding. Originally coming from the DNA of the wild carrot variety. Even though carrots are primarily known for their bright orange hue, they didn’t actually start out that way. Until around the 17th century, most carrots people grew

had more of a purplish shade. However, through some crafty selective crossbreeding

of different carrot strains, farmers in Holland were able to improve their crop,

developing the orange-tinted carrot of today.Wild carrots grow up to 150 cm tall and have a hairless or bristly stem. The leaves are feathery in appearance and give off a carrot odour. Unlike commercial cultivated varieties (cultivars) of carrot, wild carrots have small, pale taproots, which are all but inedible.

It's a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. In the first

year, the plant forms a rosette of feathery leaves. In the second year, it grows a tall

stalk with flat, white flowers arranged in umbrella-shaped clusters up to 7cm in

diameter and may have one purple or red flower in the centre. These clusters fold

inwards, becoming concave, when the flowers turn to seed. Wild carrot fruits are

covered in spiny ridges that attach to passing animals to help with seed dispersal. 

These umbrella shaped clusters are perfect landing pads for butterflies and moths to

collect nectar from the firework display of flowers. The flowers and seeds of wild

carrot plants are a valuable food source for many pollinators, such as bees,

butterflies, and hoverflies.

Wild carrot plants also provide habitat for beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and

lacewings, sulphur beetles, soldier beetles, flies, hoverflies and all sorts of other

bugs which help to control pest populations in gardens. It is a food plant of

caterpillars of the Swallowtail butterfly.

The deep taproots of wild carrot plants help to hold soil in place and prevent erosion.

I’ve fallen in love with the Wild Carrot flowers that grow wild along the Cornish

pathways, hedgerows and meadows of Cornwall. Last year towards the end of sunny

September I picked lots of wild carrot flower heads. Always leaving plenty behind for

the next seasons re-growth. They are ever so pretty as decorations. I even use the

seed heads in my gift wrapping.

Interspersed within your garden this grand display of white and pink will attract the

beneficial insects one needs to keep other insects in check. They stand taller than

most plants so act as a beacon. You will find Wild Carrot seeds in Sōlseed’s Butterfly Flower mix seed packet, Bee Flower mix and Bird Flower Mixes.

Did You Know….

Wild carrot appears in a list of aromatic herbs grown in the royal garden of

Babylon in the 8th century BC. It is thought to have been grown for its fragrant

leaves or seeds.

Did You Know...

The image of bunnies happily munching on carrots is a myth. In fact, according to

the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) carrots are NOT

good for rabbits. In fact, they present a serious health hazard.

Folklore Associated with Wild Carrot .In ancient Scotland, Wild Carrots were dug up in late September in honour of St Michael, patron saint of the sea.  Wild Carrot was also symbolic of fertility.  On the Sunday before St Michael’s Day, the women would dig up the carrots, singing

special songs.  They dug the plants up by removing soil in an equal-sided triangle,

the plants were tied with red thread in bundles of three, and then presented to the

men.  The significance of three probably originated as symbolic of the three stages

of a woman’s life – girl-mother-crone (the symbolism later shifted to represent

Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  

Be Aware...

  • The taproot of the wild carrot is edible but can be woody and bitter. It's best to harvest the roots in the first year before they become too tough.

  • The leaves and flowers of wild carrot can also be eaten, but they should be consumed in moderation as they may cause skin irritation in some people. It's important to be able to correctly identify wild carrot plants before

  • consuming them, as they can be confused with some poisonous plants. If you are unsure, it is best to err on the side of caution and not eat them.

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