Gerald L. Klingaman
Plant Common Name
Carrot, Garden Carrot, Queen Anne's Lace
In the wild it may be called Queen Anne's lace or wild carrot, but as a cultivated plant Daucus carota is simply referred to as the garden carrot.
The cultivated carrot is a hardy, herbaceous, biennial of European and Asian origin. It is grown for its crisp, sweet, tasty tap roots. Often called Daucus carota ssp. sativus, it is a biennial but rarely gets the chance to flower because its roots are harvested in the first season. If allowed to flower, it has large, pretty, lacy, white umbrella-shaped blooms that appear in summer.
Eastern and western cultures have cultivated carrot roots for thousands of years. There are many cultivars, old and new, which may produce orange, orange-red, purple, yellow or white carrots. These most often appear as long, tapered taproots but short, round-rooted selections, like the popular 'Thumbelina' are also available.
Carrots grow best if cultivated in deep, rich, friable loamy soil and full sun. They are easy to grow if given the right growing conditions and can be stored for long periods of time. Generally, they require 50 to 75 days to harvest.
The wild form, Queen Anne's lace, was introduced from Europe into Colonial America very early on and has become a common weed along roadsides, in fields and fallow areas. This unrefined counterpart to the cultivated carrot develops a neat rosette of fine, dissected, medium green leaves in the first year. In the second, it puts forth tall, airy stems topped with lacy white, umbel-shaped flowers. These appear in summer and attract many insect pollinators, like bees and butterflies, and are ideal for cutting.
Queen Anne's lace prefers sunny locations and almost any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. Though tough and resilient, it is susceptible to carrot rust fly, wireworms and aphids. This weedy wildflower is pretty despite the fact it vigorously self sows. It may be planted in mixed borders and butterfly gardens.