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The Story of Queen Anne's Lace

By Carrie Lamont (carrielamontAugust 7, 2014
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Queen Anne's Lace, or Wild Carrot, or Bird's Nest, are all names for the same beautiful frilly white flower. If you live in the continental United States, this flower grows in your state! It was brought to North America by early European settlers as a medicinal herb. Is it a wildflower, a weed, a useful herb or a dangerous invader? There are certainly arguments to every side of the debate.

Gardening picture

The story of Queen Anne . . .

Queen Anne was tatting white lace.  (Tatting is the all-but-lost art of making lace by hand.)  The beautiful white lace she was tatting became the white lacy flowers of the wild carrot plant.  She pricked her finger and one drop of blood oozed out.  This became the central dark red or purple sterile floret that is present on some, but not all, Queen Anne's Lace flowers. 

Legends disagree as to which Queen Anne was tatting such lovely lace.  Some say it was Anne (1574 - 1619), the first Stuart Queen Anne, who was brought over from Denmark at fourteen years of age to be a Queen to King James of Scotland.  Others argue  it was Anne (1665 - 1714), the daughter of William and Mary, and the last monarch in the Stuart line. Both Annes died in their forties!

 

The plant, Queen Anne's Lace . . . 

Queen Anne's Lace, or Wild Carrot, or Bird's Nest, is a biennial.  The first year a shrubby rosette of leaves establishes itself, possibly even unnoticed.  I certainly didn't notice it, and I wanted it in my garden. The second year, the lacy umbel or flat ray of thousands of tiny, white flowers appears, giving you armloads of fresh flowers with sweet, carroty-smelling foliage to bring inside.  In some, but not all, the very center floret is a dark reddish purple.  This one is sterile, but the other ones, up to 40,000 per plant,  are all fertile seeds.  Queen Anne's Lace flowers in July and August in my state, Massachusetts; differently in others, and these thousands of seeds are transported all over the world by a variety of means: dogs, cats, gardeners, little children, birds, other animal fur, the wind, seed companies, herbalists, ships, airplanes, and so on.

 

Daucus carota . . .

Daucus carota is the botanical name for Wild Carrot as well as for  tame, annual, garden ones.  The starchy taproot of the wild form is edible, but it's apparently not very tasty.  (No, I haven't tried it.) Daucus carota is a member of the Apiaceae family which is filled with fragrant and flavorful relatives, like caraway, fennel, dill, celery and parsnip, and an extremely dangerous one: poison hemlock.   Do not make an infusion or tea of Queen Anne's Lace unless you are certain you know exactly what you are doing! (Remember, that's how they got rid of Socrates!)

Another interesting tidbit is that while the wild root is yellowish-white, in the 16th century, Dutch growers deliberately bred carrots to be orange, to honor the House of Orange, the Royal Family of the Netherlands. Carrots have been orange ever since, until recent vegetable breeders produced varieties in red, purple, white and yellow again!

 Queen Anne's Lace as herb . . .

Hippocrates recommended that women eat carrot seeds to prevent pregnancy.  We don't know whether modern, commercial carrot seeds would do the trick, but there is evidence that the seed of Queen Anne's Lace, collected, prepared and ingested in a certain, specific way has a contraceptive effect for women.  Please, do not rely on this method without a lot more research than I was able to do! 

 Queen Anne's Lace flowers can be used to make a natural yellow dye. Parts of the plant are mentioned by herbalists as a diuretic, an antiseptic, soothing to the digestive system, useful for colic, and as a hallucinogenic! Queen Anne's Lace was a valuable enough medicinal herb that colonists relied on it.

Queen Anne's Lace as weed . . .

Queen Anne's Lace, according to the USDA, is a weed in the 48 continental United States, and reported by 14 of them as invasive.  Like other similar plants not native to North America, it grows best in disturbed ground, after fires or in vacant lots or abandoned fields.  It can be controlled by mowing or pulling.

Queen Anne's Lace as wildflower . . .

Queen Anne's Lace is an important plant in many wildflower meadows.  It is friendly to beneficial insects and may provide cover for small wildlife. It provides a lovely, lacy, white filler plant in flower arrangements, similar to baby's breath. It has been an important part in all of my bouquets since earliest childhood.


You Decide About Queen Anne's Lace . . .

Queen Anne's Lace is easy enough for me to control - so far.  I snip off the "Bird's Nest" of ripening seeds and try not to spill any.  It's not fair for me to decide whether it is invasive in your garden. That will have to be up to you and your state.   You can tell I love it.

 

 

a little  further reading about Queen Anne's Lace ...

 

Natural History of North America

USDA Weed of the Week

Medicinal Plants in Your Backyard

Wildflowers of Alabama

25 Facts About Carrots

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 11, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)

 

 

 

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  About Carrie Lamont  
Carrie LamontCarrie clicks on EVERY link. She has two beautiful daughters, and has been married for fourteen delightful years. Her husband works for an airline, facilitating Carrie's frequent need to travel. She has a masters degree in Music, and hums to herself as she gazes out wistfully at her full-sun containers from her air-conditioned interior. Carrie just moved from Massachusetts to Texas and is still recovering. Follow her on Google.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Article joandud 1 1 Aug 15, 2014 1:10 AM
colored queen anns lace choochoo219 3 16 Aug 11, 2014 9:25 AM
Great Article Thanks! Lalani 1 1 Aug 11, 2014 9:24 AM
Queen Anne's Lace in the UK treefrogdemon 1 3 Aug 11, 2014 9:22 AM
Beautiful! adinamiti 5 23 Aug 7, 2014 7:42 PM
Charming, beautiful...and mysterious! Seedtosser1 7 50 Jun 26, 2010 12:26 PM
Another Dangerous one exists! NEILMUIR1 23 113 Aug 14, 2009 8:26 PM
Queen Anne's Lace and chicory mardijoy 1 12 Aug 8, 2009 8:36 PM
Hepburn's Favorite slvrwilo 3 22 Aug 4, 2009 5:11 PM
Anyone know this diddy? jujubee4 1 14 Aug 4, 2009 5:09 PM
Queen Anne's Lace Maria 7 45 Aug 4, 2009 4:38 PM
Chigger plant Liquidambar2 0 23 Aug 4, 2009 12:22 AM
Queen Anne's - and Poison Hemlock NordicFletch 1 23 Aug 3, 2009 11:20 PM
A beautiful picture of QAL by hand! carrielamont 0 28 Aug 3, 2009 4:41 PM
QAL ienvan 3 22 Aug 3, 2009 1:20 PM
Dropping seeds pamsaplantin 3 24 Jul 30, 2009 10:01 PM
Apiaceae = Umbelliferae LariAnn 10 78 Jul 30, 2009 4:33 PM
Queen anne's lace daphnep 4 32 Jul 29, 2009 11:27 PM
Annes phicks 1 18 Jul 29, 2009 11:24 PM
QAL cinlaluv 1 14 Feb 11, 2009 4:41 PM
Queen Anne's Lace nocowsallowed 1 19 Aug 17, 2008 3:16 PM
Queen Anne's Lace timmychoo 3 29 Aug 17, 2008 3:04 PM
Great Artical!!!!! Thanks Carrie SW_gardener 6 34 Aug 12, 2008 10:28 PM
QAL iamlee 1 26 Aug 12, 2008 9:25 PM
Queen Anne's Lace and Chiggers alpinmd 6 99 Aug 12, 2008 3:31 PM
Article jmorth 6 64 Aug 11, 2008 11:54 PM
I love them too! davis1676 1 45 Aug 11, 2008 1:50 PM
How to use QAL in flower arrangements ScotDeerie 1 67 Aug 11, 2008 12:45 PM
Article DriftingDude 1 52 Aug 11, 2008 12:32 PM
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