Today's featured weed is Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus Carota
Queen Anne's lace is also known as Wild Carrot, Bird's Nest Weed, Bee's Nest, Devils Plague, garden carrot, Bird's Nest Root, Lace Flower, Rantipole, Herbe a dinde and Yarkuki.
The World Carrot Museum states that the name “‘Herbe a dinde' derives from its use as a feed for young turkeys – dinde.” (Personally, I'd never heard of that name before. Maybe it's a UK thing?) The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Leadership Programs for Teachers cites the origin of the name as follows: “Queen Anne’s Lace is said to have been named after Queen Anne of England, an expert lace maker. When she pricked her finger with a needle, a single drop of blood fell into the lace, thus the dark purple floret in the center of the flower.”
Range and Identification of Queen Anne's Lace
Queen Anne's lace is commonly found along roadsides and meadows, and in gardens, where you may spot what looks very much like a carrot popping up where you didn't plant any carrots. It ranges throughout the United States, as well as Europe and Asia. Although I think the flowers are quite lovely, I'm careful to avoid letting them go to seed in the garden. A single plant can have hundreds of seeds, and they stay viable in the soil for years. (Why is it that wild cousins are so much more durable than their domesticated counterparts?) When the seed heads dry, they curl up into a “nest” shape, accounting for the various “nest” names. The young seedlings look very much like carrots. The leaf type is twice compound, the leaf attachment is alternate (from the Wildflowers of Wisconsin Field Guide).
Before using any part of the plant, make sure you do not confuse it with wild hemlock or water hemlock, which both look similar and are poisonous. Queen Anne's lace will smell like carrot. If your plant doesn't smell like carrot, don't consume it. If you are not sure, don't consume it. The plant is a biennial, which means that it lives for two years. The first year it produces only leaves, the second it puts up a flower stalk and then dies. The plant acts as a host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly. (If you're interested in raising butterflies in your home or learning more about butterflies, I highly recommend The Family Butterfly Book
.) The identification video below is by Susun Weed. I really enjoyed her book Healing Wise.
Food Uses of Queen Anne's Lace
As the name “wild carrot” would imply, the root of Queen Anne's lace is edible, as are the leaves and flowers. CAUTION: Pregnant women should not consume Queen Anne's lace in any form, as it may cause uterine contractions. Roots for cooking should be harvested during the first year, before the plant goes to seed. The World Carrot Museum features a recipe for jelly using the flowers of the plant.
Queen Anne's Lace Jelly
18 large, fresh Queen Anne's lace heads
4 Cups water
1/4 Cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 Package powdered pectin
3 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp. sugar
Bring water to boil. Remove from heat. Add flower heads (push them down into the water). Cover and steep 30 mins. Strain.
Measure 3 Cups liquid into 4-6 quart pan. Add lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly. Add sugar and stir constantly. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil one minute longer, then remove from heat.
Add color (pink) if desired. Skim. Pour into jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Process in hot water bath for 5 mins.
Makes about 6 jars.
The roots can also be dried, roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute, in a manner similar to chicory.
Craft Uses of Queen Anne's Lace
For those of a crafty inclination, the flowers can be pressed and dried and used as decorations. They keep their form very nicely. You may enjoy using them for homemade greeting cards, scrapbooking or decoupage.
You can also use the flowers for a nifty science experiment to show how plants draw up water using capillary action. Simple clip some blossoms (try not to smash the stems) and place them in some water with food coloring in it. The blooms will slowly change color as the plant draws in water from below. You can keep it simple, or make up a multi-colored arrangement. Ours were a little droopy by the time I remembered to take the photo, but you get the idea. They were still prettier than paper towels. 🙂
Medicinal Uses of Queen Anne's Lace
I have not used Queen Anne's lace medicinally, but Ryan Drum seems to have more experience with it than most, and shares it on his site, Island Herbs.
The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Leadership Programs for Teachers offers the following outline of medicinal uses:
Traditionally, tea made from the root of Queen Anne’s Lace has been used as diuretic to prevent and eliminate kidney stones, and to rid individuals of worms. Its seeds have been used for centuries as a contraceptive; they were prescribed by physicians as an abortifacient, a sort of “morning after” pill. The seeds have also been used as a remedy for hangovers, and the leaves and seeds are both used to settle the gastrointestinal system. It is still used by some women today as a contraceptive; a teaspoon of seeds are thoroughly chewed, swallowed and washed down with water or juice starting just before ovulation, during ovulation, and for one week thereafter. Grated wild carrot can be used for healing external wounds and internal ulcers. The thick sap is used as a remedy for cough and congestion.
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Queen Anne's Lace Attracts Beneficial Insects in Organic Blueberry Patch
As I wrote to you, we have planted Queen Anne's Lace amongst our certified organic (Certified by Oregon Tilth) blueberries. They attract a parasitic wasp that attacks the drysophila fly that is spreading throughout the Pacific Northwest, attacking blueberries, cherries, blackberries, and other soft skin fruit. We do not have spray the drysophila because of the wasps solving the problem for us!