Queen Anne’s Lace, showy and delicate at the same time, we see them often when we walk. They grow well in dry areas.
In dry ditches, roadsides, and fields, this plant, also called “wild carrot” grows up to four feet tall. The leaves are fern-like and the flower head grows up to about four inches across in a flat platter. It is biennial, blooming every other year.
“Wild carrot” is an apt name. The cultivated carrot that we eat is a subspecies of it. With the wild variety, the long root is edible on a young plant but gets woody and tough as it ages.
Its range is across the lower 48 states in the U.S., but it is not native to the continent and in some areas is considered invasive, crowding out native species.
Though not native, Queen Anne’s Lace is of benefit to a number of other species, including butterflies, bees, and wasps. This site from Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) includes some important plant and animal relationships.
After the bloom fades the individual flower stems curl into a tight ball. There is some literature that suggests the seeds may be useful as contraception, though I certainly will not attest to that. Other medicinal stories include use to settle the digestive tract or act as a diuretic, cure hangovers, salve wounds, or remedy coughs or congestion.
As with so many of our wild plants, parts of Queen Anne’s Lace are edible. The cultivated carrot, after all, is a subspecies. If you look online you can find ways to use the young taproot in the spring, or perhaps to use the flower head to make jelly. You also will find WARNINGS not to eat the plant unless you are sure it isn’t a Water Hemlock, whose flower looks similar. The poison of water hemlock is found throughout the plant but concentrated in the roots, and moreso in the spring. So rather than risk any liability for your safety, I will tell you, if you want to eat Queen Anne’s Lace, you do so at your own risk.
If you are interested in more information on Queen Anne’s Lace, there are numerous websites available. One interesting site I found is broadly concerned with wildflowers. Though I was looking for Iowa wildflowers specifically, I found not only Iowa information, but a full directory by state! At the bottom of the page you can change the directory pointer to a different state to access local information.
Thanks as always to Jim in IA for the photos.